Build of the Week: littleBits Facetime Car

Build of the Week: littleBits Facetime Car |

*Build of the Week is a regularly occurring segment on Renovated Learning where I share some of the awesome stuff my students have been making over the past week.* 

This build isn’t actually from this week, but is instead something my students made last month.  I finally got all the videos and photos together this week.

Back in November, my students came up to me one morning super excited about something they’d read in Popular Science (I love my nerds).  They had seen a Facetime car made with littleBits and laser cut parts, and they were determined to build one with our littleBits.  We don’t have a laser cutter, but we do have LEGO Mindstorms parts, so my students quickly got to work sketching out ideas and brainstorming.

The first version of our littleBits car.

The first version of our littleBits car.

In the first version of our littleBits car, my students hooked up a wireless receiver to four DC motors using splits.  The mounted it all to a mounting board, and used LEGO gears as the wheels. This was controlled with a wireless transmitter and slider switches.  The students could control either side with the switches, so the car could go straight, turn left or right.

A later version of the car

A later version of the car

They continued to modify and add to the design.  Using bargraphs, they discovered that using one battery and a fork didn’t power each bit the same amount, so they decided to use three separate batteries.  They also learned that one wireless transmitter can control multiple wireless receivers, so they set up a second receiver to make a “headlight” and a “horn” using an LED and buzzer.  They also figured out how to rig a servo bit with LEGOs to create a grappling hook that could move obstacles out of the way of the car.

The final addition was a LEGO mount on top to hold a cell phone, so that they could steer the car using Facetime, even if they couldn’t physically see it.  All of this was held together with LEGOs, mounting boards, and LOTS of scotch tape.  In this video we put together, you can see the design process from start to finish:

This was such a fun process for my students.  They learned so much about design, trouble-shooting and prototyping.  There were plenty of failures, but they learned from them and adjusted.  To me, this is what Makerspaces are all about – giving kids the opportunity to pursue a passion project from start to finish, to make something themselves with their own hands, and to share that project with others.

I can’t wait to see what they build next 🙂

Diana Rendina, MLIS, is the media specialist at Tampa Preparatory School, an independent 6-12 in Tampa, FL. Previously, she was the media specialist at Stewart Middle Magnet School for seven years, where she founded their library makerspace. She is the creator of the blog She was a monthly contributor to AASL Knowledge Quest from 2015-2018. Diana is the winner of the 2016 ISTE Outstanding Young Educator Award, the 2015 ISTE Librarians Network Secondary Award, the 2015 AASL Frances Henne Award & the 2015 SLJ Build Something Bold Award. She is an international speaker on the Maker Movement and has presented at conferences including AASL, FETC & ISTE. Diana co-authored Challenge-Based Learning in the School Library Makerspace with Colleen and Aaron Graves and is also the author Reimagining Library Spaces: Transform Your Space on Any Budget.