While littleBits offers a collection of great kits, this review will specifically focus on their Droid Inventor Kit, which allows students to create their own Star Wars R2-D2 droid, program it, and send it on various missions. This kit was originally launched in Sept. 2017, but their team added the coding functionality in April of this year.
Before jumping into the Droid Inventor Kit review, here’s a brief overview of how littleBits work and function:
As mentioned above, this review will focus specifically on the Droid Inventor Kit, but I think it’s important to note that I have had nothing but positive experiences in the past when it comes to littleBits. They’ve been great for K-12 lessons on circuitry, programming, and on design-based thinking. Plus, they’ve been a wonderful tool for helping my preservice teachers think about how they might design STEM and STEAM-based lessons in their future classrooms.
The littleBits team has also put together an excellent collection of educator resources and lessons that teachers can use for students at all levels. Teachers can filter lessons by subject area, grade level, and difficulty level. It’s great to see so many cross-curricular possibilities, plus teachers in the field can submit and share their own lessons!
Moving on to the Droid Inventor Kit, in general, the kit is recommended for ages 8 and up. An important note is that this kit is different from other Star Wars toys on the market in that it has attracted an audience of 40 percent girls (which is 4X higher than the industry average for this type of toy). littleBits was able to do this through gender-neutral product design, featuring girls in the marketing, and highlighting inventions with the droid that appeal to both boys and girls (aka, a droid that brings you candy vs. a droid that reenacts the Star Wars movies).
To start off, let’s begin with an overview video which showcases some of the different possibilities that are possible with the kit. You can also check out their playlist of Droid Inventor Kit videos here.
In addition to the possibilities shown in the video, you can also use the associated app to create your own programs using littleBits’ block programming language. The app is great, as it not only helps guide you through the construction process, but also walks you through the 22+ missions that are included with the kit.
This video gives you a better idea of what some of those missions look like in action:
I absolutely love the variety of missions, and how the missions encourage students to create and incorporate real-world objects as well. For example, in Mission 7, students are asked to program the droid to avoid obstacles. This means that students can also get engaged in the process of actually building those obstacles for the droid to avoid. This could be a great connection to an art lesson, or even to an engineering lesson about building scale models.
I’m also incredibly happy to see the integration of block-based programming with this kit. For anyone who was used Scratch before (or similar block-based programming options), this will look familiar.
Students can use the block-based programming language to build a program that has the droid make certain sounds, move in certain ways, and even respond to the distance sensor. In general, it’s a great tool for helping students become familiar with the basics of programming, but it can also be used to explore more advanced features like loops and logic functions.
For myself, it took about 20 minutes from unboxing to get everything set up and running. The droid and app worked perfectly, and the app instructions for building the droid are well-suited for students at all ages and ability levels. Once completed, the missions offered a lot of fun variety, plus our puppy really enjoyed chasing R2-D2 and trying to figure out who this mysterious robot roommate was.
But rather than walk you though my own build process from start to finish, I feel like Evan here does a much better job of capturing the fun and enthusiasm of what this project actually looks like in action:
Overall, I’m a big fan of littleBits and their Droid Inventor Kit is an excellent addition to their lineup.
For elementary and middle school teachers who are looking to integrate lessons related to circuitry, programming, engineering, and design, littleBits offers a lot of excellent hands-on possibilities. Their lessons and resources for educators offer great support, and there is an enormous library of video tutorials available through YouTube as well.
In short, if you’re looking for fun and exciting ways to inspire and empower your students to create and invent, I absolutely recommend littleBits.
I was not compensated for writing this review.
I received a Droid Inventor Kit for the purposes of review.