littleBits Projects: ISS and Data Communication

This is part of an on-going series of posts about littleBits projects. littleBits is available in the Adafruit store – Starter Kit, Extended Kit, Deluxe Kit, Synth Kit, Arduino Module, and Arduino Starter Bundle.

They say music is a universal language, so we made a littleBits circuit that demonstrates how it possible to play music from Earth on the International Space Station. NASA uses electromagnetic waves to communicate with satellites orbiting Earth. Our miniature version of the ISS wirelessly receives sound data through light.

littleBits ISS

How Does It Work?

A microphone module converts the digitized music from an MP3 player into a  series of light wave pulses through an IR LED. These light pulses are decoded by a light sensor on the ISS, and converted to sound waves by a speaker module.

You can also build a desktop experimental model using either a bright LED or an IR LED for different effects.

littleBits Data CommunicationsWhat happens when you move the light Bit further away from the Light Sensor? What happens if you block the Light Sensor with your hand? What if you use a thin sheet of tissue paper? How does that affect the digital signal?

The Data Communication project and ISS are both have excellent educational content. If you’re interested in learning more, you’ll find four additional lessons from NASA over at littleBits.cc.


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