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A mere 11% of engineers in the U.S. are women, but Stanford engineer and product designer Debbie Sterling is doing her part to increase that percentage by getting young girls interested in building and problem solving though her interactive toy called GoldieBlox. Often, toy companies will take construction sets, like Lincoln Logs, and simply make them pink to appeal to girls, but Sterling argues that color is not the the most important factor. She spent a full year researching toys on the market and looking at gender-specific ways of learning. In a nutshell, she concluded that boys like building while girls like reading and storytelling.

Combining spatial and verbal learning, GoldieBlox is a book and construction toy based around Goldie, the girl inventor, and her group of friends, who go on adventures and solve problems by building simple machines. Following the story, young girls build the machines along with Goldie. Sterling launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the first production run, and she nearly doubled her goal. Though based in San Francisco, Sterling also came out to Maker Faire New York this year to share her toy and mission with the community.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-AtZfNU3zw

Goli Mohammadi

I’m senior editor at MAKE and have worked on MAKE magazine since the first issue. I’m a word nerd who particularly loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon as a whole. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for the ideal alpine lake or hunting for snow to feed my inner snowboard addict.

The maker movement provides me with endless inspiration, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. The specific beat I cover is art, and I’m a huge proponent of STEAM (as opposed to STEM). After all, the first thing most of us ever made was art.

Contact me at goli (at) makermedia (dot) com.


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Comments

  1. lol says:

    This text is slightly better than the rhetoric of this blog’s Lady Ada post.

    However, the primary drive of young scientists or engineers is discovering problem solving, and not consuming some product’s biased marketing.

    In my opinion, people can’t objectively approach their own challenges as parents, and easily forget what discovering the world outside of entertainment TV entails.

    Take your kid on a guided open-house tour of a local university lab, cyclotron facility, or power station. They will instantly understand why people spend their lives learning new things. Note, your children will watch how you respond to these environments, and almost certainly have questions of their own you can’t predict.

    Teach them to safely build things with real tools, and they will exceed your current expectations.

  2. engineerzero says:

    I read in his autobiography that while growing up, Steve Wozniak was inspired in part by the Tom Swift novels. Many male scientists, engineers, and technicians will fondly recall science fiction stories with youthful protagonists — who were usually themselves male.

    Alas, today with rare exceptions the fictional role models for girls are witches or vampires. Any effort to redress that, more power to it.

  3. It’s good to start the learning process early. I met Ms. Sterling at an engineering event in NYC. I am looking forward to see her final product. In regards to the curriculum, I would like to help in that process because I am an elementary science educator.

  4. Ru says:

    When I was a little girl I was lucky enough to have parents who let me play with things like food packaging, paper, cardboard, glue, and other construction elements that were not from a toy company- sometimes as supplements to bought toys, such as my custom Barbie House. To be honest, the colour of this product would have put me off then and makes me uncomfortable today. It’s still pink-washed, pastel, girly overload. I hope they bring out some sets that use appealing colours that arent so frou-frou- white and yellow for example.
    I do like the story telling element, and the incorporation of animal characters

  5. Anon, a Mouse says:

    This is a toy PARENTS will feel comfortable giving their little girls. The problem is not getting girls interested in science and technology, it’s getting parents over the idea that science is for boys. My parents tried very hard to interest me in “girls’ toys,” and keep me away from my dad’s workbench. My brothers, on the other hand, were welcome to pull chairs over and climb up. By the time I got to first grade, I had figured out that convincing one of them to ask how something worked meant I could overhear the real, technical explanation. I’d like to say attitudes are changing, from what I’ve seen of friends and family… not so much.

  6. [...] the article Goldieblox and the Three Builds, engineerzero [...]