Ayah Bdeir

Women in STEM
Women in STEM
Ayah Bdeir

Birth:  1982

Specialty:  Media Arts and Sciences

Major Contributions:

Founder, inventor, and CEO of littleBits

One of Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream

Founder of karaj, Beirut’s lab for experimental art, architecture and technology

Leader in Maker and Open Hardware Movements

Image: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Engineer, artist, and inventor Ayah Bdeir has focused her career on democratizing hardware to make education and innovation more accessible. Considered a leader in the Maker Movement, her involvement started when she and some friends created their own Maker’s Faire in Beirut when she was seventeen. In fact, she earned her MS at the MIT Media Lab because of its support of the Maker Movement. This movement believes that we have to go back to making things for ourselves and understanding the objects around us.

As part of her efforts to help people become makers, Bdeir created and sold the first littleBits kit in 2011. In the time since, the company has been recognized with over 150 awards. littleBits are interchangeable bricks that are designed so that everyone can be creative with electronics and reinvent their world. There are currently over 70 Bits which are electronic modules that are pre-engineered to have one specific function. These functions include serving as a power supply, acting as sensors, and producing many types of output.

The Bits are unique in that they snap together using magnets making them highly accessible to many users. By using these bricks to build electronics, kids, and even adults, can gain a better understanding of the technology in the world around them. The company has built a community of contributors who experiment, share online, and learn from each other. One of the things that makes this possible is that littleBits is open source, making them better tools for teaching and learning.

Bdeir has been a leader in the Open Hardware movement as well. She spearheaded the creation of the first Open Hardware definition which led to the CERN Open Hardware License and she was a co-founder of the Open Hardware Summit.

After littlebits was acquired by another educational technology company in 2019, Bdeir used her skills to co-found Daleel Thawra – an online platform that helped organize activists in her home country of Lebanon during a time of revolution. Since that time, she has been a board member for the Fund for Public Schools in New York City and a Senior Advisor for Mozilla, with a focus on Responsible and Trustworthy AI.

Besides being a tech innovator, she is an interactive artist whose work combines experimental media and technology and has been displayed at the Modern Museum of Art in New York City and the Royal College of Art in London.

Written by Angela Goad


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AyaBdeir.com: Press

See Also:

Wikipedia: Ayah Bdeir

CERN Open Hardware Licence

Maker Faire: The Maker Movement