Itty Bitty City: Programmable Legos for Budding Inventors

Arduino, Legos, and drag-and-drop programming. What's not to love?

By Dave Johnson

We often spread the love for cool Kickstarter campaigns, but let's not neglect the other major crowd-funding site, Indiegogo. This week, Indiegogo reveals what might be the coolest STEM toy (you know, something that encourages learning in the sciences, technology, engineering, or math) we've seen in a long time.

If you've ever seen Lego Mindstorms, you'll immediately understand the appeal of our favorite campaign this week, Itty Bitty City. Mindstorms, of course, is Lego's robotic system—one that lets you combine a brain module, sensors, motors, Lego parts, and a simple programming language to make truly incredible things.

And Itty Bitty City is, well, like an open-source version of that which replies on an Arduino brain. Compatible with ordinary Legos, the Itty Bitty City components snap together to make seemingly anything. The kit comes with an array of sensors, a motor, buzzer, lights, and more—and the system is expandable with additional modules. Because it all connects with snap-on parts and magnetic connectors, there's no need to solder parts or work with circuit boards.

Out of the box, Itty Bitty City can be turned into any of eight predesigned projects, including a remote-controlled car, a miniature basketball game that keeps score, and a sound-activated windmill. And unlike Mindstorms, which is pretty pricey, Itty Bitty City lets you get on board for as little as $50 (although various configurations run up to about $200).

You can bring your own designs to life with any of a number of programming languages. More advanced folks might want to use the Arduino IDE, but beginners can drag and drop programming instructions in a user-friendly interface.

We're really jazzed about Itty Bitty City because it's the sort of tech toy that's as much fun for kids—even pretty young ones—as for adults. As we write this, Itty Bitty City is about halfway to its goal, and there's a month left in the campaign.

One word of warning: This is an Indiegogo campaign with a flexible goal, meaning that, unlike a Kickstarter campaign, Itty Bitty City gets your money even if it don't reach its goal. That can be risky because, if it doesn't attract enough money to complete the project, you may never see your reward. That said, the folks behind this project have successfully launched several other products, and they claim to be ready to start shipping finished kits in December, a little more than month from now.

Campaign: Itty Bitty City

Pledges start at: $52

Campaign ends: 11/25/2016