littleBits retails small electronic building blocks that magnetically snap together allowing users to build, invent, and design their own electronic products. This NYC startup has a mission to empower and encourage everyone to invent and connect with technology on a physical level by providing modular pieces of hardware to assemble your ideas.
Its founder and CEO, Ayah Bdeir started the company after pursuing an engineering degree at the Media Lab at MIT and realizing how certain challenges, such as soldering hardware together, prevents the public from understanding how to build electronic circuits. Overcoming this challenge by creating an open source library of easy-to use hardware, littleBits connects the public with the art of hardware design without needing a formal education in electrical engineering. You can purchase individual pieces, whole libraries, or kits with suggested projects that you can build upon or create something completely new!
Ayah Bdeir is a leader of the Open Hardware, the Maker and Internet of Things Movements, a TED Senior Fellow (check out her talk here!), and named one of Popular Mechanics’ 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream in 2014, amongst other impressive accolades. Interestingly, when asked about her beliefs on how to encourage girls to pursue engineering, it wasn’t to make products “for girls”. Instead, she strives to ensure her products remain gender neutral. Rather than producing a product with colors and looks that target young girls, littleBits’ pieces, designs, and projects target everyone. The goal is for a girl or boy aged 8 or 88 to find something that inspires them. It’s been a pretty successful approach, as roughly half of littleBits users have been girls!
Need even further motivation to invent? You can submit your awesome design project to the company and if it’s picked up as a project for retail, you receive a cut of the profit for being its inventor.