Category Archives for "Reviews and Recommendations"

littleBits Introduction - Printable Cards Set
Dec 04

littleBits Electronic Blocks for STEAM Education

By ShaiCoggins | Printables , Reviews and Recommendations

LittleBits (or littleBits, as the company refers to itself) is a modular electronic blocks system that may be purchased either as complete kits or as individual modules (or bits). They may be used to put together suggested creations or original inventions.

They have an available app to help you to create using the different kits (Android and iOS only).

The Tech-y Bits

The modules/bits are colour coded as follows:

  • Blue = Power bits
  • Pink = Input bits
  • Orange = Wire / Connector bits
  • Green = Output bits

The blue Power bits is usually attached to a 9v alkaline battery and a plug. Power bits provide the electricity required for the inventions to work. The pink input bits trigger the action or activity of the green output bits. Pink input bits include: switches, sound triggers, microphones, keyboards, and more. Green output bits include: LED lights, speakers, buzzers, and more. The orange bits enables a connection between the input and output bits extending the inventions using wires or connectors like Makey Makey, Cloudbit, and Bluetooth modules.

When introducing littleBits to students, I find that it’s useful to teach the importance of understanding the concepts behind each of these bits/modules to strengthen the students’ learning. You can download a set of cards for your use in your classroom or makerspace from our TpT Store (it’s free!).

littleBits Introduction

Download this for FREE as a printable card set from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Download Now

Thoughts on littleBits

When I first came across littleBits, I wanted to see if it would work well in a primary STEAM Classroom. So, I ordered my first kit, which was the Cloudbit Starter Kit. And, while I thought it was great, it didn’t seem like the best kit to start with, especially for primary school students.

So, I ended up purchasing the littleBits Basic Kit (this kits seems to have been phased out).  This was a much better fit for what I had in mind for students.

My collection of littleBits kits have grown a lot since then. As of writing this, I have bought and used the following kits with my students: STEAM kit (1 set), Gadgets and Gizmos 2nd edition (1 set), Rule Your Room (2 sets), Droid Inventors kit (1 set), Synth Korg kit (1 set). I hope to share full reviews of these littleBits kits some time.  In the mean time, here are some thoughts and recommendations on littleBits.

littleBits at STEAM Club


  • They are easy to understand and use! Young kids can create and invent using littleBits. It’s a great way to teach electronics and robotics to primary students without having to do soldering, etc. Years 3 and up (ages 9+) will probably be able to use them independently after some basic/introductory lessons. Younger children can use them with close supervision from teachers/parents.
  • There are a lot of creation and invention possibilities with some of the basic modules. While you can create inventions based on suggested activities and lessons from the app and website, you can also come up with your own inventions. In fact, it’s highly encouraged once the students get the hang of the modules.
  • The kids love them! I have yet to meet a student who doesn’t love working with littleBits. The biggest problem is never having enough bits/modules for everyone to use!


  • They are pricey! Yes – this is probably going to be the biggest barrier for a lot of people. Each kit can set you back from US$99 upwards.  And, in Australia, you’d be lucky to find a kit that’s within AU$150 each. Usually, there are only a handful of bits in each kit. So, if you’re purchasing for a class or group, you might need a couple of thousand dollars to have enough kits for your students. And yes, purchasing modules individually sometimes can even be more costly!
  • The modules need to be handled with care. They’re not unreasonably fragile, but it’s worth making sure the students look after the bits properly (e.g., don’t drop them, don’t insert things in them that are not meant to be inserted, don’t put them in water, etc).
  • Students need ample education, encouragement, and exposure to working with the modules, so that they can be more inventive with them. They tend to want to follow instructions to start with, so they only just do what they’re told to do. That’s why educators need to teach them higher thinking skills and creativity to help them create inventions that are of their own design.

In summary: littleBits are great tools to have in any STEAM classroom or makerspace. They come highly recommended. Some favourite kits include Gadgets & Gizmos, Rule Your Room, and Droid Inventor.

Here’s an introductory video on littleBits that you might find useful and inspiring:

Makerspace or STEAM Classroom Tools and Materials
Oct 30

80+ Must-Have Budget-Friendly Materials For Makerspaces or STEAM Classrooms

By ShaiCoggins | Reviews and Recommendations

No two makerspaces, STEAM laboratories, or tinker stations in classrooms are alike. And, that’s how it should be. After all, no two students or teachers are alike. That’s why each space should be planned, developed, and stocked with resources according to the needs of its participants.

If you know that your students are more of the visual art type, then you might need to fill your space up with art and craft materials. If they prefer building, then start collecting recycled materials and construction toys. See what they’re interested in and consider your own curriculum.

However you’re planning your space, here’s a list of things that you might consider adding into your resource carts or cabinets. They’re organised by types of materials, not in order of importance. So, you’re welcome to pick and choose depending on your needs. This list is simply a guideline or starting point for your makerspace or STEAM classroom planning.

Makerspace or STEAM Classroom Tools and MaterialsWhat are your favourite makerspace tools?

Art Materials
1. Paper (white, black, Kraft, coloured, graph)
2. Pencils (Lead and Coloured)
3. Felt Tip and Ballpoint Pens
4. Crayons
5. Black and Coloured Markers
6. Paint (watercolour pans, liquid watercolours, acrylics, finger paint)
7. Brushes
8. Cardstock
9. Oil and Chalk Pastels
10. Ink pads
11. Inks/Ink dyes

Craft Materials
1. Popsticks or Craft Sticks
2. Pipe cleaners
3. Pompoms
4. Googly eyes
5. Masking tape
6. PVA Glue
7. Washi tape
8. Yarn
9. Felt
10. Fabric
11. Beads (wooden/plastic)
12. Coloured tissue
13. Feathers
14. Hot glue gun (use with caution)
15. Scissors
16. Craft knife
17. Buttons
18. Glitter
19. Plastic needles
20. Matchsticks

Household Materials
1. Aluminium foil
2. Baking soda
3. Shaving foam
4. Drinking straws
5. Paper/plastic plates
6. Disposable cups
7. Plastic spoons and forks
8. Kitchen towels
9. Toothbrushes
10. Salt
11. Wooden clothes pegs
12. Baking paper
13. Cooking oil
14. Cleaning brushes
15. Ice trays
16. Dishwashing liquid
17. Aluminium or plastic trays
18. Uncooked rice, pasta &/or beans
19. Vinegar
20. Food dye
21. Flour
22. Cornstarch

Recyclable Materials
1. Newspapers
2. Magazines
3. Old, broken toys and knick-knacks
4. Bottles
5. Jars
6. Cardboard
7. Bottle caps
8. Egg cartons
9. Paper tubes
10. Tin cans
11. Plastic containers
12. Rubber band (from vegetable packaging, etc)
13. Wood pieces
14. Cork
15. Boxes

Other materials
1. Velcro
2. Wires
3. Balsa wood
4. Batteries
5. Alligator clips
6. Motors (DC and vibrating)
7. Paper clips
8. Bulldog clips
9. Play dough
10. Blu tack
11. Droppers
12. LED lights
13. Gloves (plastic or rubber)
14. Marbles
15. Ping pong balls
16. Magnets
17. Copper tape
18. Twigs, branches, acorns, etc

Strawbees Crazy Scientist Kit - STEAM Educational Tools Review
Sep 28

Strawbees: STEAM Educational Tools Review

By ShaiCoggins | Reviews and Recommendations

Strawbees is a prototyping tool and toy for makers of all ages. It was first introduced in 2014 via the company’s successful Kickstarter campaign.

The concept is simple: Using Strawbees connectors, you can put together plastic straws (very much like your regular drinking straws) or cardboard pieces to create different things – from basic 3D shapes to complex mechanical objects.

I didn’t know about Strawbees until a couple of months ago. But, the moment I found out what this tool can do, I knew I just had to try it. So, I purchased one of the kits (Crazy Scientist Kit) and used it in the STEAM* Club that I run for a local school here in Adelaide. And, I’m here to review the kit that I used.

Strawbees Crazy Scientist Kit - STEAM Educational Tools Review

Strawbees Crazy Scientist Kit
(Please note that this is an independent review, not a sponsored one.)


The Verdict


  • Strawbees are so much fun to use! The kids absolutely loved working with the straws and connectors.
  • Strawbees are great for teaching structures, design, geometry, and more. And, several creations may be related to real life use.
  • Strawbees kits come with a basic instructions booklet to get you started. You can also find more projects using their free app (available via iOS and Android), their Maker Activities page, and their Learning Portal.
  • Strawbees can be extended with different STEAM tools like Quirkbots, littleBits, Hummingbird robotics, etc. You might even consider connecting them with regular motors and battery packs.
  • Strawbees classroom kits are relatively inexpensive compared with many STEAM tools. And, you don’t have to purchase the branded straws. There are regular drinking straws that you can use with Strawbees connectors.
Sample student work - STEAM Club Adelaide Australia school

Sample work by STEAM Club Students in Adelaide, Australia.


  • Introducing Strawbees to students is simple. But, it might take a little bit of time for students to grasp the full extent of the tool’s capabilities (not necessarily a bad thing!).
  • Some of the tutorials available may be a little confusing to some students, so there might be a need for more hands-on guidance at the start.
  • The connectors can be a little tricky to use at times, especially when not using standard straws. It’s especially tricky when attaching connectors to other connectors. You might need to fold or snip (not easy for younger students).
  • Some of the available projects in Strawbees booklets and online tutorials might not work as well as you hope at the start (e.g, the catapult). So, you might need to make some adjustments.
  • While relatively inexpensive as a STEAM tool/kit, it can get expensive when using for several students if Strawbees are not re-used/recycled. That’s why it might be worth considering getting their Infinite Kit (or their Upcycle Station for two full sets, including Quirkbots) if you’re planning to use Strawbees on a regular basis.

In summary:

Strawbees are definitely worth the investment! It’s a wonderful addition to any STEAM or maker classroom or lab.

Strawbees kits come in 3 basic packages:

  • Maker Kit – This is their introductory kit that comes with 200 pieces (straws + connectors), with an instruction booklet containing 16 projects. It costs around US$20 (AU$25-30).
  • Inventor Kit – This is the intermediate level kit that comes with 400 pieces (straws + connectors), with an instruction booklet containing 20 projects. It costs around US$40 (AU$40-50).
  • Crazy Scientist Kit – This is the advanced level kit that comes with 1000 pieces (straws + connectors), with an instruction booklet containing 21 projects. It costs around US$80 (AU$80-100).

There is also a School Kit, which comes with 2560 Strawbees connectors, 1500 straws, and a Card Deck of Creativity (with US$20). It costs US$295 (AU$400).

You can learn more about Strawbees from their website. You can also watch this Strawbees intro video below (It’s in Taiwanese, but the video doesn’t need text. The visual shows you Strawbees’ possibilities.) –

*In case you haven’t heard of STEAM yet, it stands for Science Technology Engineering Art Mathematics.