Chapter Spotlight: Upgrade @ Flying Fox Studios, with Justin Gilfillan

By admin


Justin Gilfillan



Our Global Chapters Program is a global network of organizations with a shared mission of putting the power of electronics in the hand of everyone regardless of age, gender, technical ability and language. Find your local Chapter or start your own!


Where are you based?
Our littleBits Chapter is run from Flying Fox Studios in Brisbane, Australia.


Tell us more about your organization and space.
Flying Fox Studios is a creative kids studio running classes and workshops that are a bit out of the box. We run music, art and engineering classes during the school term and fun workshops during the school holidays.


What inspired you to start a Global Chapter?
We had already been using littleBits in our Fox Blocks classes to build circuits and to explore adding simple circuitry to some of the models we had constructed. Then, when the opportunity arose to use littleBits as more of a focal part of our older Fox Blocks classes, we had no hesitation to join in the Global Chapter Movement. Being a part of littleBits as the Chapter for Brisbane gives us the opportunity to creatively inspire people to invent and tinker in our unique Flying Fox way.


How are you re­-inventing your space with littleBits?
Over the past six years, our Fox Blocks classes have been successfully developed for students from 4 years to 12 years old in 4 age groupings. For the past two years, we have been trying to find a way to extend the older students using our own creative blend of problem solving, engineering, team building, and fun. Since the connection with littleBits has been made, we have successfully launched our newest Fox Blocks age group called “UpGrade” for students 12 years and older. Using littleBits, LEGO, new and recycled materials and more, we have successfully created a space that is transforming the way that Brisbane children, teens, and adults can interact with technology in a fun and creative way.


Tell us more about your last event.
We ran our latest event on August 29th called “UpGrade-a-Dad”. With Father’s Day coming up on September 6th in Australia it seemed the perfect chance to get children thinking creatively about celebrating their dads, uncles, grandfathers, or other male role models in their life. There were two directions the students headed during this event. Either they tried to hack a way upgrade their dad, or they upgraded a gift for their dad for Father’s Day.


What were some of the projects that came out of your event?

1) The Dad-Dozer: Using a pressure sensor bit, the Dad-Dozer circuit is hidden in a handkerchief and is activated when the user (dad) begins to doze! Upon activation, the pressure sensor sends a signal to a vibration motor bit and LED light bits, waking up the user.






2) A Mechanical Bike: This LEGO creation included motor bits attached to the front and rear wheels, as well as training wheels to keep the model steady. A prototype build for a dad who recently bought a new bike for his son, allowing him to keep up with his son when they go for rides. The littleBits circuit also included LED light bits for headlights and a dimmer bit to adjust the speed.




3) The Sock Chaser: This circuit was created using some LEGO wheels attached to motor bits as a way of getting dad off the computer and moving around the house. When it comes time for dad to put on his socks, the vehicle can be turned on and socks attached to the wheels. Then the vehicle will roll around the house until dad catches it. There was also a dimmer bit included to adjust the speed when dad’s fitness improves.




What did you learn from hosting this event?
After hosting this event, I learned that time flies when you are having fun!


Who else in your community inspires you?
I think my children inspire me the most. I have three boys, 13, 6, & 3 years old that have an amazing way of viewing the world. Seeing how they learn, their inquiring minds, and their love of play is the highest inspiration. They encourage me to explore new things, understand difficult concepts, and challenge me to be the most creative dad I can be.


What’s next for your chapter?
Next up for UpGrade is an event on Saturday September 26th themed around Spring (September – November in Australia ). We will be upgrading ‘Spring Cleaning’, the ‘Spring Carnival’ (horse racing), and ‘Spring Gardening’. We are also looking forward to UpGrading Halloween and UpGrading Christmas before the end of 2015 too.


What’s been your favorite thing about being a Chapter leader? Why should others join?
The best thing about being a Chapter leader is being able to see the inventiveness of the participants. Giving people an idea and watching them take it in directions even I didn’t know it could go. If you are sitting on the fence and are not sure whether to become a Chapter leader, you should definitely accept the challenge. It is rewarding and inspiring when you see people, especially those who are new to electronics, eyes light up (pun intended) when they build a circuit so easily with littleBits.



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