Biography

Short Bio:

Ayah Bdeir invented littleBits, the electronic building block that has transformed education through invention and play. In 2011, Bdeir founded littleBits Electronics Inc, a company with the mission of empowering kids to be change-makers through invention and creativity. While Bdeir was CEO, littleBits was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art into the permanent collection, sold millions of units, won over 150 awards in education, tech and play, and led partnerships with Disney, Pearson and the New York Department of Education. In 2019 littleBits was acquired by Edtech company Sphero. Bdeir is an alumna of the MIT Media Lab, a TED Senior fellow, and her TED talk has over 1 million views. Bdeir’s work to get more girls into STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Art and Math) has been featured on 60 Minutes, the World Bank, and the White House. Bdeir has been named one of 100 Most Influential women by the BBC, Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream, Inc. Magazine Top 100 Female Founders, and MIT Technology Review’s list of 35 Innovators Under 35.

 

Long Bio:

Ayah Bdeir is the founder of littleBits, the award-winning company that invented the electronic building block and whose mission is to empower kids to be change-makers through invention and creativity. The company is the leader in education and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), has won over 150 awards in education, tech and play, and has partnered with industry giants, including Disney, Pearson, and the New York Department of Education, and in 2019 was acquired by Edtech company Sphero.

Bdeir is an engineer, interactive artist and one of the leaders of the open hardware movement. Her career has centered on making education and innovation more accessible and inclusive.

In 2004 Bdeir graduated from the American University of Beirut with degrees in Computer and Communications Engineering and Sociology. In 2006, she graduated from the MIT Media Lab and her work appeared in The New Museum, The Royal College of Art, and Ars Electronica. In 2008 Bdeir received a fellowship at Eyebeam Art and Technology center, and taught at NYU’s ITP and Parsons DT. In 2010, Bdeir worked on what Open Source meant for hardware, which garnered her a fellowship at Creative Commons and led to co-founding the premier conference on Open Hardware (the Open Hardware Summit) which itself inspired the development of the CERN Open Hardware License. 

While at Eyebeam, Bdeir invented littleBits, the electronic.building block, and the first system of modular hardware in the world, acquired into the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) permanent collection. After showing a prototype of littleBits at World Maker Faire in New York City, Bdeir founded littleBits Electronics Inc and raised over $70M from prominent investors in Silicon Valley and New York. In 2012, Bdeir was awarded the highly prestigious TED fellowship and her TED talk: “Building Blocks that Blink, Beep and Teach” has over 1 million views. While Bdeir was CEO, littleBits sold millions of units, won over 150 awards in education, tech and play, and led partnerships with Disney, Pearson and the New York Department of Education. In 2019 littleBits was acquired by Edtech company Sphero. 

Since 2006 Bdeir has lectured and advised extensively on how to get more girls into STEM, including at the White House, at the World Bank and on the “Women in the World” stage with Tina Brown. In 2019 Bdeir launched “Snap the Gap” a $4M initiative with Disney to get every 10-year-old girl engaged in STEM.

Through her work with littleBits, Bdeir has received countless awards including being named one of 100 Most Influential women by the BBC, Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream, Inc Magazine Top 100 Female Founders, on the CNBC Next List and on MIT Technology Review’s list of 35 Innovators Under 35. She holds over a dozen patents to her name.

Originally from Beirut, Ayah now lives in New York City.


 

Awards

2019

  • Crain’s Notable Women in Tech
  • Novim Group’s Science Courage Award

2018

  • Inc. Magazine 2018 Female Founders 100
  • STEM Hero of the Year award at VEX World Championship Competition
  • 2018 Connected World Women of M2M (WoM2M)
  • #MadeofMoxxie Award Winner
  • Top 25 Leading Woman Entrepreneur
  • Silicon Republic The Game-Changers of 2018

2017

  • Forbes Women @ Forbes UCnder 30: Closing the Tech Gap
  • Silicon Republic The Game-Changers of 2018

2016

  • NYSCI Creative Entrepreneurship Award from The New York Hall of Science
  • Marie Claire America’s 50 Most Influential Women
  • Crains New York 40 Under 40

2015

  • Disruptor Awards Honoree

2014

  • Inc. Magazine 35 Under 35
  • Popular Mechanics 25 Makers Who Are Reinventing the American Dream
  • 2014 Entrepreneur Magazine 10 Up and Coming Leaders to Watch
  • MIT Technology Review 35 Innovators Under 35
  • CNBC Next List
  • New York Business Journal Women of Influence winner

2013

  • Fast Company Most Creative People in Business
  • TED Senior Fellowship
  • Ozy Rising Star

2012

  • TED Fellowship

2011

  • Maker Faire Editor’s Pick

2010

  • Creative Commons Fellowship
  • INK Fellowship

2008

  • Eyebeam Senior Fellowship

2007

  • Eyebeam Fellowship