COMMENTARY: World Maker Faire Is Where D-I-Y Meets T-O-Y-S!

MakerFaire,crowdshot,littleBitsThis past weekend, under terrific late-summer weather, the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was the site of this year’s World Maker Faire. The massive, two-day-long science fair/state fair drew large crowds of hobbyists, educators, tech enthusiasts, and more. The exhibitors consisted of a wide range of crafty and tech-savvy folks working in a variety of medium—and they included quite a few toy companies.

Given that innovation and education are among the underlying principles of World Maker Faire—not to mention the larger “maker movement” as a whole—it wasn’t surprising to find many toys aimed at fostering intellectual curiosity in kids. It would take too much space to list them all, but here are three that struck my fancy. Each encourages learning in ways that are hands-on and inventive.

SparkleLabsSparkle Labs: The New York City-based company’s mission is to make science and engineering as approachable as possible. To that end, its Papertronics – Lunar Modules is an origami kit with cute designs on paper, to go with simple electronics that teach the basics of LED circuitry. Suitable for kids ages 8 and up, each kit includes all the materials necessary for three working lanterns: Spaceboy, Alien Girl, and Tabula Rasa. [Read more...]

littleBits Launches Three New Electric Building Kits

LITTLEBITS EXPLORATION KITSlittleBits, maker of an open source library of electronics that snap together for prototyping, learning, and fun, has launched three new littleBits Exploration Kits: the Base Kit, the Premium Kit, and the Deluxe Kit. Each was designed to bring the simplicity of the classic building block to the world of electronics for children, teens, and adults.

The new kits, available at and select specialty retailers, contain an assortment of color-coded electronic Bits modules that instantly snap together with magnets. Bits are color-coded into four categories (blue/power, pink/input, green/output, and orange/wires) to simplify the creation process for builders of all ages and allow users to create simple circuits, or more inventive projects like a Morse code machine, glow-in-the-dark puppet, or a bubble flute. Each kit includes customized, step-by-step instructions to start the building process.

The Base Kit contains an assortment of 10 modules, including a power module, three input modules, four output modules, two wire modules, and one 9V battery, and a handy project booklet with step-by-step instructions for eight creations. Kids can use the kit’s button, dimmer, and buzzer Bits to create a doorbell or turn the DC motor Bit into a tickle machine.

The Premium Kit contains 14 modules, including one power module, five input modules, five output modules, three wire modules, and one 9V battery for a wide range of building and design possibilities. Kids can use the kit’s sound trigger and fan Bits module to create a hypnotizing wheel or take the Kit’s roller and vibe modules and make a drawer alarm.

The Deluxe Kit, which is the biggest littleBits collection ever produced, contains 18 modules, including one power module, five input modules, five output modules, and seven wire modules, and an expanded project booklet featuring step-by-step instructions for 15 projects.