The LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit not only fulfills the lifelong dream of building my own “life-like” R2 unit but it is also a tremendously creative way to introduce anyone to the basics of robotics and engineering. With its brilliant design, anyone who can follow instructions on the level of basic Lego sets are able to create their own Droid. Whether you simply recreate a version of R2-D2 or become creator to a droid entirely your own, the kit includes plenty of pieces for hours of experimentation and creative exploration. More advanced users can further the fun through additional “bits” that can be purchased separately increasing the toy’s complexity.
The LittleBits Droid Inventor Kit comes ready to go. They even include a 9V battery to power the fun but you’ll need to download their app for the instructions and to control the droid. It is a rather large download so if this will be sitting under the tree you may want to find a way to sneak the download ahead of time so you won’t delay the fun.
The app guides you through 16 missions that introduce you to the droid’s features, parts and introduces the various ways you can make this droid your own. Some of the easy to personalize traits include simply mixing and matching the various decals or using the provided white decals that you could color. However be aware that those do not easily peel off the droid body like the colored decals. It comes with a set of blue decals that allow you to copy R2-D2’s look or you can feature the red & black scheme of R5-D4. You can also add your own recorded sounds or change the color of the droid’s glowing LED.
I have to admit that as we first flipped that switch and heard the familiar chirps and beeps of our own little R2 unit my heart skipped a beat. I will never forget the huge smile that crossed my little guy’s face in that moment and how that joy and twinkle continued to grow as we built our droid.
The LittleBits parts are designed with magnetic connectors that aid in putting the pieces correctly match-up. The bits are color coded to illustrate the mechanics behind the action. Blue units are the power, oranges are the wires (which connect or branch), pinks are the input and greens are the output. The app offers thorough active diagramming of the actions needed to assemble the droid. After each step, it would offer a follow-up question to ensure the step had been done correctly.
Once the droid is assembled you’re offered several ways to direct its actions. You can use a simple joystick style interface, an interface that reacts to the tilts of your tablet or smartphone. By mounting the included proximity sensor on the front, you let it self-drive avoiding obstacles or mounting the proximity sensor on the back you can have fun with the “force mode." We had no trouble driving him on our carpets but he was clearly happier on the hard smooth kitchen floor. The droid comes with kits so you can add the ability for your droid’s head to spin or wave an arm however with the included bits you end up disabling your droid’s ability to travel to enable those motions.
After building our droid, we had some fun driving him around a kitchen obstacle course. We’re already thinking up other ways to feature our new pal. The current plan is to use his included hitch to set him up as the lead float in a parade. We gave it a trial run with some very basic Lego pieces but are planning a more elaborate one in the next few days. We have to create the parade units.
As part of their mission to ignite creativity and exploration, LittleBits and Lucasfilm are currently hosting a competition (submissions must be received by 1/10/18.) They are inviting users to show their customizations whether simply color designs or more elaborate creations using additional set additions. Prizes include a trip to Lucasfilm, a Disney Store shopping spree or autographed R2D2 replica. You can view some of the entries and learn more about the contest here.
I’m excited to watch how my little inventor adapts his droid and the LittleBits that power it. I suspect someday I will find that he has used the bits to bring some other household object to life. Perhaps even use it to realize his dream of building his own replica Rockafire Explosion band and that’s what makes this kit so cool for the first time I see him truly believing that he can build his own animated puppets or animatronics, and that’s very exciting.