Ayah Bdeir

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Award-winning Inventor and Education Leader Focused on Using Technology to Reinvent STEAM Learning; Leading Authority on Learning Through Play; Interactive Artist and Activist on a Mission to Increase Equitable Access to Technology; Founder of littleBits; BBC100 Most Influential Women; MIT Tech Review’s 35 Innovators under 35

Biography

Ayah Bdeir is an engineer and social activist. She is the inventor of littleBits, the electronic building block that has transformed STEM education for millions of kids around the world.

For over a decade, Bdeir’s work has centered around empowering everyone to be an inventor — by modularizing and democratizing electronics, by pioneering new ways of learning through play, and by reimagining the relationship between technology and creativity. Bdeir has been particularly focused on empowering underrepresented communities with the tools to become tomorrow’s changemakers.

A graduate of the MIT Media Lab, Bdeir coined the term “Electronics as Material” in 2009 to encapsulate the central thesis behind littleBits. By abstracting electronics from low-level components — like resistors, capacitors and transistors — and turning them into interaction-based modular building blocks — like light, touch-sensitivity and music, Bdeir transformed electronics into a creative material just like cardboard, screws, and software. Suddenly, everyone could be an inventor.

To further her mission of democratizing invention, in 2009 Bdeir co-founded the Open Hardware Summit and helped shape the principles by which Open Source is applied to hardware. The definition led to the CERN Open Hardware License and the “Open Hardware” mark today appears on hundreds of millions of hardware products.

In 2011, in order to bring littleBits to classrooms, maker spaces, and after school programs around the world, Bdeir founded a company, littleBits Electronics Inc., and raised over $70 million from prominent investors in Silicon Valley and New York. The company was acquired by Sphero in 2019 and together have become a leader in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) education. Today, more than 20 million “Bits” are in the hands of kids, teachers, parents, artists… in over 70 countries. And littleBits has won over 150 awards including Toy of the Year.

In 2019, when a revolution broke out in Lebanon, Bdeir’s home country, she went back to Beirut and co-founded a platform to help political and civic activists use technology to further democracy. The platform, called Daleel Thawra (translation: Directory to the Revolution), organizes the revolution’s information (protests, political organizations, NGOs, economic whitepapers) but also makes critical connections between detained journalists and pro-bono lawyers, or between individual donors and activists with urgent needs from the ground. Today Daleel Thawra reaches over 35,000 people in Lebanon and continues to grow.

In recognition of her work, Bdeir has received numerous awards, including: BBC 100 Most Influential Women (2019), New York Times Groundbreaker (2019), Inc Magazine Top 100 Female Founders (2018), CNBC Next List (2015), MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 (2014), and Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream (2014). She has received fellowships from Creative Commons and TED, and her TED talk, “Building Blocks that Blink, Beep and Teach,” has garnered more than a million views. Bdeir has appeared on the covers of The New York Times Magazine (2011), WIRED UK (2016), Marie Claire (2018), Forbes Middle East (2015), MAKE Magazine (2019) and others. She was most recently featured on 60 Minutes (2019).

Her inventions are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and have appeared in The New Museum, The Royal College of Art, and Ars Electronica. She holds over a dozen patents.

Bdeir received her Masters of Science in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab and has taught graduate classes at NYU and Parsons. Prior to MIT, she earned degrees in Computer and Communications Engineering and Sociology from the American University of Beirut.

Born in Montreal and raised in Beirut, Bdeir now lives and works in New York.

Ayah Bdeir is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Videos

Books & Research

Media

Ayah Bdeir's Medium Column

To the Class of 2020 - Commencement Speech

May 21, 2020

Out of the Lab and Into the World

February 11, 2020

7 of the Best Games and Toys Invented by Women

December 10, 2019

Business Leaders on Capitalism and Their 8-Year-Old Selves

November 11, 2019

These 15 Arab Women Are Among BBC's 100 Women of 2019

October 22, 2019

Celebrating Women in STEM: Ayah Bdeir

August 29, 2019

Sphero Buys LittleBits to Take the Lead in STEAM Education

August 23, 2019

Inverse Culture logo

LittleBit's Ayah Bdeir is Filling STEM's Diversity Gap, Block by Block

May 20, 2019

Inverse Culture logo

Who Can Be an Inventor? Society Has the Wrong Idea About It

May 20, 2019

LittleBits CEO Aims to Encourage Girls to Pursue STEM Careers (With Video)

April 2, 2019

LittleBits CEO Talks New Disney Partnership, Girls in STEM & Immigrant Entrepreneurship

April 2, 2019

LittleBits and Disney Launch Snap the Gap to Teach Girls STEM

April 2, 2019

Opinion: You Can't Solve the Gender Gap in Tech If You Don't Understand Why It Exista

March 6, 2019

Girls in Tech: Confronting the "Middle School Cliff"

March 3, 2019

LittleBits Goes Big: Ayah Bdeir Shares History and Lessons Learned

January 11, 2019

For One Immigrant CEO, Speaking Out on Immigration is Personal

June 21, 2018

LittleBits Founder Ayah Bdeir Wants to Ignite the Inner Inventor in Us All

May 21, 2018

Kids Must Fail: How Ebracing Playful Failure Helps to Empower Tomorrow's Changemakers

November 20, 2018

LittleBits CEO on Making STEM Fun,

November 16, 2017

How LittleBits Grew From Side Project to Star Wars

November 4, 2017

This Successful Entrepreneur Explains Why Revenue Is Not the Most Important Thing (and What Is)evenue is Not the Most Important

September 7, 2017

An Electronics Startup Responded to Trump's Muslim Ban With a Times Square Ad in Arabic

February 9, 2017

Wired logo

Profit Isn't Everything, You Need Purpose Too

May 18, 2016

Wall Street Journal

LittleBits Electronics Kits Defy Conventions

February 21, 2016

Ayah Bdeir Founded LittleBits to Make Science Fun. She Might Now be On to Something Bigger

October 9, 2015

The Kitchen-Table Industrialists

May 13, 2011

Intro Video

Video ThumbnailAyah Bdeir: Building blocks that blink, beep and teach - youtube Video

A-Z Name

Bdeir, Ayah

Biography

Ayah Bdeir is an engineer and social activist. She is the inventor of littleBits, the electronic building block that has transformed STEM education for millions of kids around the world.

For over a decade, Bdeir’s work has centered around empowering everyone to be an inventor — by modularizing and democratizing electronics, by pioneering new ways of learning through play, and by reimagining the relationship between technology and creativity. Bdeir has been particularly focused on empowering underrepresented communities with the tools to become tomorrow’s changemakers.

A graduate of the MIT Media Lab, Bdeir coined the term “Electronics as Material” in 2009 to encapsulate the central thesis behind littleBits. By abstracting electronics from low-level components — like resistors, capacitors and transistors — and turning them into interaction-based modular building blocks — like light, touch-sensitivity and music, Bdeir transformed electronics into a creative material just like cardboard, screws, and software. Suddenly, everyone could be an inventor.

To further her mission of democratizing invention, in 2009 Bdeir co-founded the Open Hardware Summit and helped shape the principles by which Open Source is applied to hardware. The definition led to the CERN Open Hardware License and the “Open Hardware” mark today appears on hundreds of millions of hardware products.

In 2011, in order to bring littleBits to classrooms, maker spaces, and after school programs around the world, Bdeir founded a company, littleBits Electronics Inc., and raised over $70 million from prominent investors in Silicon Valley and New York. The company was acquired by Sphero in 2019 and together have become a leader in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) education. Today, more than 20 million “Bits” are in the hands of kids, teachers, parents, artists… in over 70 countries. And littleBits has won over 150 awards including Toy of the Year.

In 2019, when a revolution broke out in Lebanon, Bdeir’s home country, she went back to Beirut and co-founded a platform to help political and civic activists use technology to further democracy. The platform, called Daleel Thawra (translation: Directory to the Revolution), organizes the revolution’s information (protests, political organizations, NGOs, economic whitepapers) but also makes critical connections between detained journalists and pro-bono lawyers, or between individual donors and activists with urgent needs from the ground. Today Daleel Thawra reaches over 35,000 people in Lebanon and continues to grow.

In recognition of her work, Bdeir has received numerous awards, including: BBC 100 Most Influential Women (2019), New York Times Groundbreaker (2019), Inc Magazine Top 100 Female Founders (2018), CNBC Next List (2015), MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 (2014), and Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream (2014). She has received fellowships from Creative Commons and TED, and her TED talk, “Building Blocks that Blink, Beep and Teach,” has garnered more than a million views. Bdeir has appeared on the covers of The New York Times Magazine (2011), WIRED UK (2016), Marie Claire (2018), Forbes Middle East (2015), MAKE Magazine (2019) and others. She was most recently featured on 60 Minutes (2019).

Her inventions are included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and have appeared in The New Museum, The Royal College of Art, and Ars Electronica. She holds over a dozen patents.

Bdeir received her Masters of Science in Media Arts and Sciences from the MIT Media Lab and has taught graduate classes at NYU and Parsons. Prior to MIT, she earned degrees in Computer and Communications Engineering and Sociology from the American University of Beirut.

Born in Montreal and raised in Beirut, Bdeir now lives and works in New York.

Ayah Bdeir is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, conference talks and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Media

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Social Media

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