The Mars Rover. The discovery of inhabitable planets. Space experiments.
Amazing breakthroughs are happening at NASA all the time, but most of us on Earth are resigned to watching from the sidelines. After all, you need to already be an astronaut to understand the first thing about space, or so we thought.
DIY electronics company littleBits is bringing NASA-approved hardware hacking to the masses. The littleBits Space Kit, announced Thursday, is the result of a year-and-a-half long partnership between NASA and littleBits to make the complicated field of space exploration a little more accessible. The results are projects, lesson plans, and hardware modules designed and vetted by NASA engineers.
“NASA came to us,” said Ayah Bdeir, CEO and founder of littleBits. “They wanted to know, ‘How do we make space exploration something people can understand, see the importance of, and learn from?’ The result was a kit based on innovations that are scientifically accurate and real, but much more accessible to people.”
How To Simplify Space
littleBits has defined itself by unique prototyping modules that snap together—no soldering, wiring, or programming required for assembly. An artist who uses technology as her medium, Bdeir came up with the idea when she was trying to make an even more approachable DIY hardware option than what she was used to working with.
“People are passionate about space,” Bdeir said. “But they’re not sure how it works. We’ve been taking on one technological field at a time that people are very passionate about, breaking it down, and making it easy for people to understand and reinvent.”
With littleBits, now people can prototype space-themed projects. They can make their own satellite dishes, star charts, or even a robotic model of the Mars rover—just by snapping components together. This may sound simplistic, but littleBits is proving itself robust enough to be more than a toy for kids.
“We’ve been testing with people of all ages,” she said. “Including space enthusiasts, scientists, physicists, and astronomers. A fast-growing portion of our customers are entrepreneurs, prototypers, and engineers, and we never planned that.”
It’s this versatility that will end up being the Space Kit’s most redeeming value. Since the new Space Kit can be used with all other existing littleBits kits, it’ll be the community that develops some of the most interesting builds from these new components.
Photos via littleBits