Connection problem with modules

I have a Pro Library for our makerspace that services over 550 K-6th grade students. Our little bits are used by our 2nd thru 6th grade. They were great for a while, but now the kids are getting really frustrated because they are not working. The connections are reliable no matter what we do…new batteries, wipe off the connection points, etc.

Anyone else having this problem? I love the concept of littleBits and I am sure with a few kids using a kit, it’s great, but for my students, they are getting dusty because the kids are frustrated.

Matthew

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Hi @pmdillon! I’m sorry you and your kids are having a frustrating time getting littleBits to work! Can you please be more specific as to how they are not working? I know you have a lot of bits, but it helps to use specific bit combinations and to explain how exactly the bits are behaving. :slight_smile:

Hi Matthew @pmdillon,

I have found that often normal wiping of the contacts does not sufficiently clean them off. A sturdy pencil eraser, on the other hand, cleans them quite well. Give both sides of each bit a good scrubbing with an eraser, and they should dramatically improve.

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We have a workshop kit and it has had about 5 uses and right away we were having connectivity issues too. The legs don’t seem to be secured as well on these (as on previous sets I have purchased) and when they get wobbly the connectivity issue pops up. It seems like there are solder points under the “leg” part of the bit that are maybe breaking.

Thanks for the advise @chris101 and your findings, @tinytreasures1! I’d like to add a couple suggestions for handling bits in ways that will extend their life.

  • Press down on the bitSnaps - not the circuit board when attaching your Bits to the mounting board. Pushing or pulling bits by the circuit board puts pressure on solder points between the circuit board and the bitSnaps.

  • When detaching a battery from the power cable, pry the snaps from the battery with your fingers. Don’t pull by the cable and don’t pull a circuit from a mounting board by yanking on the power cable.

  • In general, don’t yank wires. This goes for the fan, servo, vibration motor, tethered motor, wires, power cables.

  • Here is a tip about how to avoid wire strain on the fan module:

  • Protecting solder joints on the fan

http://discuss.littlebits.cc/uploads/default/33/96dd28a5b936d856.jpg


I hope that is helpful info! :slight_smile:

Hi @pmdillon @tinytreasures1 @chris101 @JackANDJude,

In addition to the suggestions from Chris and Jude I like to add the following:
When using a pencil eraser (works great indeed !) you must use the smooth white plastic version, definetly not the abrasive version, the last one might scratch or even damage the plastic from the bitsnaps and/or the contacts.

When prying the bits off the mounting board, never ever lift them off the board in the same direction as the bits, but always do it sideways. Else you might bend the bitsnap that comes off last so it might become wobbely or worst case gets an internal disconnection…
This picture shows what might happen if you pry a bit off the wrong way: :fearful:

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Well I am sure that is what my kiddos have done. :confounded: Now can we fix them somehow? I am pretty proficient at soldering, but that will not tighten up those feet. Also we tried soldering one of the old style touch sensors and it basically melted the board so I am a little leery to even try.

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Soldering a bitsnap back on would be tricky indeed! It might be easier to desolder the broken bitSnap and put a new one on.

As for tightening up a wobbly 'snap, I have used a drop of super glue. Works great, but be sure the bitSnap is straight, because it doesn’t move at all once the glue sets.

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Thank you! We will try to fix up one and then go from there. I will post our progress when we have something to share.

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Hi @tinytreasures1,
Indeed superglue works great.
Soldering is tricky, heating up the contacts too long will damage the internal plastic part of the bitsnap, but quick soldering works also. I repaired one of my bits by soldering as following:

  1. turn the bit upside down on a flat surface.
  2. press down on the board with your finger.
  3. quickly melt the three soldered connections and the two plastic fixings.
  4. you can feel the bitsnap move into the right position
  5. do not melt too long else the bitsnap will be damaged…
  6. you could combine it with adding superglue in step 1.

Hope this helps, if a bitsnap dies you could apply the grey bitsnaps, I once repaired my slide dimmer, it was crushed under my chair… see “repairing a normal bit” in this forum thread:

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I will check out the link thank you for the great tips. I think I will start with a “Proper Care and Handling” segment in all of our workshops and classes from now on. I have admonished general use instructions like “Don’t leave them on the floor” and “Don’t step on them” sort of thing but I think stepping up my “training” may be in order.

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@pmdillon Just a thought here, but are your kiddos using the shoes or mounting boards? If the kiddos move the bits even a little they sometimes will disconnect and it is hard to tell visibly that they have done it. I have found that the shoes help to alleviate that issue. If the bitsnaps (legs) are not loose and the connections are clean this could be the problem.

Hi @tinytreasures1,

I think it will be highly appreciated by the whole Littlebits community if you could please share your final version of your “Proper Care and Handling” instructions…
So we can all learn from it… :blush:

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Oh I would be happy to do that.

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Sorry for this ‘bump’ but i wonder if there are general issues with stable connections between modules. I have many littlebits modules, used mainly for demonstrations and without any additional mounting - just the magnetic snaps.

With brand new modules, the connections usually seem satisfactory as long as the bits are on a flat surface. combinations over 3 or 4 bits soon become problematic, but at least if the modules line up, they connect OK.

I am now about 3 or 4 months after first use. Most modules have seen adult and demo use only, but have not been used for may be a month. I am finding that most modules no longer connect reliably. Often, there is no response at all from output bits to the control input. Wriggling the bits eventually gets the required response, but the connections seem very fragile and unstable. This is not related to snaps becoming disconnected from the circuit boards. It is just the connection between modules. The gold-plated snap contacts easily get blocked with eraser swarf and can easily bend inside the snap so they no longer spring in and out correctly. I have some fibre-glass cleaning pencils used for contact cleaning but again I am worried about any debris getting stuck in the connector.

Given that a very high proportion of my modules have become far less reliable in such a short period of gentle use, I wonder how other users are getting along with theirs.

Hiya @JDTech, If you are worried about residue from an eraser (I clean mine with a regular pencil eraser, and do not experience the problems you describe), try a micro fiber cloth. Don’t let people eat while using them, and when not in use, put them in a closed box.

I clean my bits’ contacts after half a dozen uses or so.

If you would like, we can troubleshoot with you and give you some additional assistance. Just drop us a line at support@littleBits.cc with reference to this thread and I’d be happy to help you out!

Generally speaking, I would always recommend cleaning with dry, clean cloths rather than anything that could produce unwanted debris…

I have wanted to hurl my little bits against a wall for all the problems I have had with lousy connectivity between bits … and this is THE answer. I just cleaned the bits I used most with an eraser and they work great again. Thanks so much for this information! (I use a white eraser on a pencil tip then a brush to make sure no debris was left behind.)

Against my better judgement I just had ordered new audio bits, thinking that USB power input or clips between bits would solve this. I had done all kinds of searches, obviously using the wrong terms, to find other with this problem. (I don’t snap bits to boards, just use the magnetic connection). My bits aren’t used by many, just me and my son. But this problem has been a hugely negative part of my little bits experience, which is otherwise wonderful. I love them, especially the audio/synth, but ultimately they became frustrating and useless. So why isn’t the issue more public and the solution as well - If this was more of a front page item in a troubleshooting FAQ, I wonder how many people might be able to avoid the frustration I had.
Anyway, didn’t mean to rant at all but I am just so happy to find a solution

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Thanks for the kudos @ThompsonO - I’m glad the eraser trick worked for you.

In addition to cleaning, handling is also very important. I tell anyone who uses my bits not to touch the ends with the magnets and contacts. I also store them in a plastic compartmented box that closes tight.

Without knowing your son’s habits, sticky or oily hands (such as from handling while eating) get the bits gummed up real fast, so we don’t eat while playing with littleBits. And the standing rule is to wash and dry hands before and after lab work of any kind. This goes a long way toward keeping the bits clean to start with.

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Thanks for the white eraser trick.

I’ve got some 99% isopropyl alcohol (from Bartells), this is what LittleBits support suggested.
But if white erasers work I might try that first.

One suggestion I have is be very careful with bit shoes!! They’re not visible from the top, and if you try to snap them loose without realizing the shoes are there… ur bits might get bent!