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Sphero acquires school specialist LittleBits in power play for STEAM market

The connected STEAM toy specialist, Sphero – the firm behind that popular licensed Star Wars BB8 – has acquired the kids coding toy company, LittleBits.

The takeover was detailed last week for an undisclosed sum.

Before the deal, the two companies were closely aligned, with similar business models that sell mainly to schools, having built educational support systems to assist teachers. Combined, the companies say they have reached over six million students across 35,000 schools.

Sphero paved the way for smartphone-controlled toys, having found success in toy robots based on popular franchise characters such as R2D2, BB-8, and Lightning McQueen. As interest in the portfolio began to wane, Sphero made clear its plans to focus back on STEAM products, which saw the release of Bolt, Specdrums, and the RVR.

Meanwhile, LittleBits is known for its electronic building blocks that connect to each other using magnets, allowing kids to create complex gadgets. LittleBits has developed kits that enable kids to build electronic synthesizers, added smartphone technology, and even picked up a Marvel and Star Wars license for DIY projects.

“Sphero and LittleBits are on a mission to make hands-on learning fun and memorable,” said Paul Berberian, Sphero’s CEO. “Together, we’re able to make an even greater impact by delivering the best possible solution – whether it is programming a robot to solve a maze or building an electronic music synthesizer. There are infinite possibilities – and they’re all fun.”

Ayah Bdeir, founder of littleBits is not expected to move with the merging companies, but instead look for opportunities elsewhere.

However, of the acquisition, she said: “When I studied engineering, it was top down, test-based. I hated it and wanted to quit every semester. Then I got exposed to the pedagogy of learning through play and my life changed; no one could peel me away from learning, inventing, creating.

“Together, littleBits and Sphero are now bringing this experience to kids everywhere.”

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