At littleBits, our mission is to empower the next generation to create and invent with technology, not just consume it. We want kids to know that STEM is for everyone, which led us to the Droidathon. The Droidathon was an event that kicked off a nationwide littleBits competition. This event pitted Bay Area tech companies against each other to see which company’s engineers could create the coolest custom Droid with the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit. The goal was to get kids interested in STEAM and invention from a young age, making STEAM applicable to their lives through Droid-building. We wanted to show kids a really, really fun time. And we wanted to show them inspiring role models to prove every background is welcome in STEM.
We invited engineers, designers, and artists from Bay Area tech companies including Facebook, Instagram, Industrial Light and Magic, Fitbit, and Google. Each team included a diverse group of innovators made 1 – 3 epic Droids which were then judged by 21 kids from local non-profits including Booker T Washington, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Black Girls Code.
Why did we throw a Droidathon?
Many people have asked why we did the Droidathon. Was it just a fun day at the Presidio, or was it something more? Clearly it was a great day, as all who participated can attest—but its meaning goes much further. First and foremost, the Droidathon represented everything that littleBits is about.
But on top of that, we know the U.S. has a STEM problem. By eighth grade, 50% of boys and girls have lost interest in STEM fields, or deemed them irrelevant to their education or future plans. Those who do enter STEM fields don’t represent the full diversity of our country; currently 84% of professionals working in U.S. science & engineering jobs are white or Asian males. According to the U.S. Department of Education, all STEM jobs in the U.S. will increase 14% by 2020. Science, technology, engineering, and math are more relevant to us than ever before, and the future will be built on them. The Droidathon was part of our answer to the problem. We wanted to give kids positive role models, and show that STEM can be really, really fun.
And the winners are…
Fitbit’s R2-Fitbit: Winner of the Dibs on that Droid Award, given to the Droid we most want to keep ourselves.
ILMxLAB’s VICE (Vanilla Ice): Winner of The Shake It Award, given to the Droid that’s so cool it makes us want to dance.
A Droid to help you cross the street safely while you dance to Vanilla Ice! STOP, collaborate, and listen before you cross the street!
Google’s Candy Droid: Winner of The Light Bulb Award, given to the Droid that’s the most inventive and best idea.
Industrial Light and Magic’s Princess Leia Droid: Best Thing Since Sliced Bread Award, given to the Droid that would most help us in daily life.
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” Holograms and spinning buns bring this Princess Leia Droid to life!
Oh, and Kelly Marie Tran was there, too. (Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi!)
In addition to the engineers and kid judges, we were very excited to have Kelly Marie Tran make an appearance! This rising star plays Rose Tico, a Resistance maintenance worker, in the upcoming film Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Why Kelly Marie? Because she plays an inventor, a tinkerer, a creative thinker in the movie. In short, she, too, represents everything that the Droidathon was about. We think she summed up the littleBits and Droidathon missions pretty nicely when she said, “Its so incredible, just the idea of being able to create things that can make the world better.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Head of Communications