October 20, 2017

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SLJ Reviews the littleBits STEAM Student Set

Making Art -Steam student set.

Making Art -Steam student set.

Want to see middle school students get excited about science, technology, and art? Tell them you have the design to build a throwing arm. I handed students in my Maker Club the littleBits STEAM Student Set and they were snapping, building, and cutting in no time. No one was safe as the throwing arm was tested around the library!

Features

Created to integrate art and design into science, technology, engineering, and math, the STEAM Student Set includes 19 bits and 45 accessories and is packed with invention possibilities for classrooms and libraries.

The most valuable features of the STEAM kit are the Invention Guide and the Teacher’s Guide. While other littleBits kits include project booklets, the STEAM set guides were created specifically for classroom integration. A print Invention Guide comes with the STEAM set, and all documentation can be downloaded from the littleBits website.

Guided challenges in the Invention Guide show students how to create a throwing arm, self-driving vehicle, art machine, and security device. Step-by-step instructions and helpful graphics identify where each bit fits into the circuit, making the construction phase easy to follow for students as young as elementary school. Educators can use the “How it Works” section of each challenge to teach students about the physics of their designs.

    Circuitcruiser - Steam student set.

Circuit cruiser – Steam student set.

Four open challenges in the Invention Guide engage students in deeper problem solving activities and offer the most freedom to be creative and incorporate different design elements into devices. The open challenges include building a device for a classroom, inventing a product that makes a difference in someone’s life, creating a Rube Goldberg machine, and inventing a device to track daily habits and make life better. Well-suited for older students or experienced littleBits creators, these challenges utilize the engineering design process and ask students to identify a problem and design a device as a solution. Through brainstorming and prototyping, students create, design, test, and revise their designs in an ongoing cycle before sharing their solutions. An accompanying littleBits Invention Log makes documenting this design process a snap.

The Teacher’s Guide introduces educators to the phases of the littleBits Invention Cycle and how it aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Lessons, also aligned to NGSS and CCSS, provide teachers with a framework for implementing Invention Guide challenges with students in a classroom setting. Primarily created for elementary and middle school students, high school teachers could adapt some lessons, especially the open challenge ones, for students in grades 9–12.

Also included in the Teacher’s Guide are troubleshooting tips, a glossary, classroom management tips, and Free-Play resources (suggestions for using challenges in informal settings). The Free-Play resources section links to the littleBits app and website, and, while useful, could offer more specific suggestions for libraries and maker spaces about how to use the open challenges, especially since they take between 1–4 hours to complete.

1605-TK-LittleBits-Scoreboard

Pricing

The STEAM Student Set is priced at $299.95 ($284.95 with the educator discount) and one kit serves 1–4 students. If you already have littleBits, you might be wondering “Do I need this kit?” The STEAM set remixes bits from other kits and is the only set to include both a USB and regular power bit. Since bits can be purchased individually (http://littlebits.cc/shop/bits), a more cost effective option might be to compare kits and add to your collection as needed.

Verdict

With the most bits of any kit, the STEAM Student Set is a great addition to libraries and classrooms. The Invention and Teacher’s guides are valuable educational resources and the Invention Log brings a new emphasis on engineering and design to littleBits creations. Students will spend hours inventing and creating with this new littleBits kit.


Hanson-Jennifer_Contrib_WebJennifer Hanson is the director of library services at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.

 

About Jennifer Hanson

Jennifer Hanson is director of library services at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts.

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