Trailblazing Women in Science: Ayah Bdeir

Technology might seem intimidating, but it's more accessible that it seems. Credit: Raimond Spekking

By Riley Black

What do you know about electronics? That might seem like an intimidating question. We are constantly using electronics - you are right now! - and yet how our devices work seems like something complicated and out-of-reach without a technical education. But it doesn't have to be that way. Artist and inventor Ayah Bdeir has been striving to make technology and innovation accessible to everyone through her startup littleBits, an open-source system of pre-assembled circuits that can be snapped together with magnets to encourage curiosity and creativity in tech.

A graduate of the American University of Beirut and the MIT Media Lab, Bdeir's career has flourished at the intersection of art and technology. She's the artist behind installations like "Elusive Electricity (Ejet Ejet)" and "Random Search," with her art presented at institutions from the Museum of Modern Art to the Royal College of Art. That background gave Bdeir a different view on the technology that defines our lives and who uses it. She's been a major promonent of making technological knowledge accessible to all, regardless of gender.

Making tech available to all will only foster more creativity and innovation. "A screwdriver is a screwdriver for everybody," Bdeir has said. "It doesn't matter who you are or how you use it. Every person will find what they want." By familiarizing people with the basics of electronics and tech, people will be freer to invent - and reinvent - what we need. Technology doesn't need to seem mysterious and out of reach. We can all find ways to plug in.

Ayah Bdeir spoke on April 8 as part of NHMU's 2021 Lecture Series. 

Riley Black is the author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, Prehistoric Predators, and a science writer for the Natural History Museum of Utah, a part of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Our mission is to illuminate the natural world and the place of humans within it. In addition to housing outstanding exhibits for the public, NHMU is a research museum. Learn more.

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