From the era of private spaceflight, to the recent evidence of the Big Bang, to armchair exploration via Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new “Cosmos” documentary, space is once again central to the cultural conversation. With that, we are excited to launch the littleBits Space Kit!
Developed in collaboration with NASA, the littleBits Space Kit takes on one of the most universal and timeless fields of all time – space – and demystifies it for everyone to understand, learn and most importantly, participate.
We started littleBits with one mission: to put the power of electronics into the hands of everyone . Our open source library of powerful electronic modules allows novices and experts alike to make complex circuits — no soldering, wiring, or programming required.
We are taking on one field at a time where technology is prevalent, breaking it down, and making it accessible to everyone. We did this first with electronics, then with music (the Synth Kit empowers anyone to build their own instruments). Now we’re taking on space. Space is too important to be intimidating, and who better to partner with but NASA.
The goal (and challenge) in this project was to create highly respectful, scientifically accurate projects and experiments that replicate NASA’s groundbreaking work, while also making them modern, engaging and fun for non-scientists.
And now, we go under the hood!
The littleBits Space Kit includes an assortment of 12 electronic modules, coupled with projects and activities designed by NASA scientists and engineers, so that anyone can discover the power of earth and space science in the classroom or at home. The Space Kit is $189 dollars and can be purchased here.
The kit includes a 30+ page booklet with information about every module in the kit as well as step-by-step instructions of how to make 10 space related projects. Some of the projects include a model Mars Rover, Satellite Dish, International Space Station and ability to observe and measure our universe. The booklet also features educational information to teach the basics of energy and the electromagnetic spectrum.
Not only does the kit offer the ability to create (and re-create) NASA-designed projects, but we’ve partnered with them to develop educational lesson plans focused on STEAM. We’ve created these interactive activities for students and teachers to gain hands-on experience. There are 100’s of activities can be found online and downloadable for free.
In 2012, NASA approached us with a big challenge that they were facing, “How can we make space education more interesting and engaging?” We then worked very closely with NASA scientists and engineers for 18 months to bring the Space Kit to life. We took several trips to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center to meet with NASA engineers and prototype and develop the kit contents, experiments, and projects. It was surreal to see our modules on the lab tables of NASA scientists using them to conduct meaningful experiments.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is near DC and home to the nation’s largest organization of scientists and engineers that build spacecraft, instruments and technology to study the Earth, our solar system, and the universe. We worked very closely with Ginger Butcher, who is NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Education & Outreach Specialist. It was truly an incredible experience to team up with Ginger and her team, the Kit couldn’t have been made without her! Check out this Pizza Box Phonograph that she made using littleBits.
There are new modules in the Space Kit that we are excited to add to our growing littleBits library.
The remote trigger lets you use a common remote control with your modules. You can make a littleBits circuit and point your household remote control at the remote trigger’s sensor. Then, press any button on your remote control to activate your circuit from across the room! Use it in the Mars Rover project to drive your rover on foreign planets.
The IR LED (or infrared light-emitting diode) module sends out light with longer wavelengths than visible light, similar to the light in your remote control. It is invisible to the eye, but good at transmitting data long distances. Use it in the “Data Communication” project to transmit music wirelessly!
The number module gives you a look into how your modules work: it displays information about the signal it’s receiving from your other modules. It has two modes: in “value” mode, it displays a number from 0 to 99 based on the input. In “volts” mode, it displays the actual voltage it is receiving, from 0.0 to 5.0 volts. Use it to measure atmospheric conditions in the “Energy Meter” project.
NASA Inspired Projects
Using the littleBits library, anyone can build and remotely control a Mars Rover, wirelessly send music to their own International Space Station, and observe and measure our universe – just like NASA scientists. Check out some of the projects you can make with the Space Kit next to their NASA counterparts!
This Mars rover, based off NASA’s Opportunity, gathers and displays light information from the environment as it drives. Control it wirelessly using the remote trigger and a household remote control!
Make your very own International Space Station and learn how to send data wirelessly through space.
This project teaches you how to build your own satellite dish. Unique curved surfaces, such as parabolas, have a point called the focus, where all of the energy entering the shape is ‘reflected’ from the parabolic curve and intersects at the focus. In your satellite dish model, the light sensor is your focus that receives energy from the bright LED and measures it in the number module.
If you want to dig deeper into these projects, check out some of the Space Lessons that were designed by NASA scientists.
Learn how to calculate the focus of your satellite’s parabolic dish.
Learn how to calculate how the distance of stars.
There you go! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these insights on how the Space Kit came about and are inspired to make something out of this world!
– Krystal Persaud, Product Designer