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Big fun with littleBits circuit boards

Crave goes hands-on with littleBits, an open-source kit of circuit boards that let you build fun projects while learning how electronics work. See what we created with littleBits and some office supplies.

James Martin/CNET

I like to think I'm pretty young at heart, but even I forget sometimes how fun it was to be a kid, when being entertained took something as simple as a cardboard box and a lot of imagination. Thankfully, littleBits reminded me.

littleBits is a set of circuit boards that can be snapped together to form whatever you want. Created by engineer and interactive artist Ayah Bdeir, littleBits was designed in part to help kids (and adults) understand how electronics work and get them interested in building their own devices, instead of just consuming them.

Each littleBits module has a specific function, such as power, motor, light, or switch, and they attach to one another via magnets, so there's no need to solder or program anything. To create a working circuit board, all you need is a power source and some kind of output, and each part is color-coded (blue, green, pink, or orange) depending on its function (power, output, input, or wire).

The easiest way to jump into littleBits is the starter kit, which costs $89 and comes with 11 modules, including a dimmer, pressure sensor, LEDs, and a bargraph. You can purchase additional a la carte parts, such as a DC motor and a fan, for about $20 each. We got a couple of kits to try out at Crave, and when I first cracked open one of them, I attached a few modules together and watched things light up and vibrate. Then I thought, "What the heck am I supposed to make with this?" That's when my inner child came to the surface.

You'll have to click through the photo gallery to see what I created with littleBits. I will say, though, that I found I needed more than one kit to come up with something that wasn't a one-trick pony, and at $89 a pop and $20 for additional modules, this can be an expensive toy. However, to be able to spend a few hours at work to essentially play? Well, that's priceless.

Also, here's a little tip. If you like the idea of littleBits, keep your eyes open for next week's Crave giveaway!

The littleBits starter kit costs $89 and comes with 11 modules, including a dimmer, pressure sensor, LEDs, and a bargraph. James Martin/CNET