A while back, I saw the fantastic GE Brilliant Machines, "Robots On The Move" ad.
After seeing it, I sent a tweet confessing my love of the spot. I was pleased to see that GE responded with a note of thanks. I was surprised that they offered to send a token of their appreciation. I responded via email and said, "Thanks for a great 61 seconds." The returned my email and said, "Send us your snail mail address so we can send you something." I responded and asked if it was an MRI machine, because I thought that would be cool.
After we returned from our holiday trip to Chicago, there was a package from GE waiting on our doorstep. It was too small to be an MRI machine, but when I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Little Bits Holiday Kit. I had never heard of Little Bits before, but what a great experience.
For those of you not familiar, check out the video below or their website.
They offer components that all fit together to create complete circuits. Components come in four varieties: power, input, wire, and output. The sides of each component are magnetized so that incorrect connections repel each other while correct connections snap into place. The most basic circuits include a power source and an output - turning on the power will cause the output (say, an LED light) to go on. Adding an input allows for control of the behavior of the output (buttons, pressure/light/temperature sensors, pulse controllers).
The real joy was using these with my kids. Within minutes, we had created a pulsing LED light that we cranked to strobe frequency and down to slow flashes. We experimented with moving outputs on each side of the pulser to see how that affected the behavior of the outputs. Pretty soon, we were brainstorming ideas for different types of machines we could create.
We will be ordering more components from Little Bits and exploring new machines in short order. Thank you GE! Thanks for a great commercial, some great social media engagement, and for giving me a fun tool to explore science and engineering with my kids.