Somewhere in the bustling Lebanese coastal city of Beirut lived a girl with artistic aspirations. But she was naturally adept at math and science, so her parents said she owed it to herself to be an engineer.
That young lady grew up to be Ayah Bdeir, LittleBits founder, TED fellow, and MIT Media Lab alum with too many accolades to list. She went on to empower people with both technical and nontechnical backgrounds to create electronic art with a company she built herself from the ground up.
Ayah's company, LittleBits, makes the hottest new tech toy on the market. It's a next-generation Lego-style set that comes with preengineered "bits" or modules equipped with light, sound, motors, or sensors. Like any building block toy, humans of any age can pick a module up and begin creating without any programming or engineering background. The "bits" are color coded — green for output, blue for power, pink for input, and orange for wire — and use magnets, so you'll never connect them the wrong way.
The possibilities are endless. With just a base kit ($99), you can make your own flashlight, beating drum, or back massager. There are plenty of grown-up-use cases, too. The founder of Ringly, a connected jewelry line launching later this year, made the prototype of her product using LittleBits.
At SXSW this year, I sat down with Ayah before her talk "Democratizing the Internet of Things Is an Urgency." During our interview, she rocked an amazing electric guitar that was custom-built using LittleBit's new Synth Kit ($159), a must for any audio nerd; gave amazing advice for female entrepreneurs; and talked about bootstrapping LittleBits with her own money. Scroll down for some serious tech-lady inspiration, and then follow Ayah on Twitter.