Meet the Inventor

Katherine Donaldson


Where are you based?
We are based in the San Francisco area.

How would you describe yourself in six words or less?
Curious, problem driven, silly, makers.

What was your littleBits “a-ha!” moment? The moment you were bitten by the littleBits bug.
Probably when I was working on the Rube Goldberg challenge, that was the first time I tried to solve a non-trivial problem with littleBits. Some parts were very easy, and some parts were very challenging. It was fun to swap bits around to get different behaviors, but it was a real challenge to get bits to affect the real world in a meaningful way. But that challenge is often the fun part.

When starting a littleBits project, what does your design and video process look like?
We have our bits organized in shallow tackle boxes, so step 1 is always opening all of those and poking around to think about the possibilities. We’ll start snapping bits together to figure out behaviors, and then inevitably the boxes that contain things-to-hold-things-together: rubber bands, zip ties, tape, etc, get pulled off the shelf.

Usually our documentation process is more of an afterthought, we just click some pictures with an iPhone, going for a single video ‘take’. My kids don’t really care to document their work, but tolerate my quickly documenting it. Usually that only takes one or two tries, but with the chain reaction machine it took more like 27. The only time I’ve done any post processing for our littleBits projects at all was with ‘My Modern Life’, which involved lots of post processing cuts in iMovie.

How has littleBits impacted you creatively?
We have a lot of electronics, different Arduino boards and basic electrical components, as well as MakeBlock and other kits, but the littleBits are definitely the easiest for my kids to use. It’s a bit of a challenge for them, because given their expense whatever they build with them is inevitably taken apart again, but it’s a great introduction into the process of prototyping with littleBits, and then rebuilding more permanently with less expensive components. And in some ways it’s very helpful, because I don’t have ‘finished’ robots stacking up everywhere, which is what happens when we build projects out of cardboard and basic electronics!

What do you plan on inventing next?
I love working on challenges from you guys, because it gives me focus, and motivation to work on something that I know is just going to get taken apart again.  Having a challenge with a timeline also helps motivate my kids, and keeps them from saying “I’ll work on that later mom”. They would probably be twice as productive if I sponsored weekly family prizes for their inventions. Soon Penelope would have a collection of 10 buzzers, and she would use them to take over the world via sonic domination.

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