There is a new toy in town and although it’s pink and cute it’s underlying principles are not traditionally girlie.
Conceived by a Stanford University engineering graduate, Debbie Sterling, GoldieBlox is a construction toy that has been created especially for girls with the aim of helping them develop an early interest and skill set in engineering.
But this isn’t just a construction toy that has been given the pastel treatment, Sterling says she spent a year doing in-depth research into gender differences and child development before she created her concept.
“My big ‘aha’? Boys have strong spatial skills, which is why they love construction toys so much. Girls, on the other hand, have superior verbal skills. They love reading, stories and characters.”
The result of combining these two worlds – spatial and verbal – is a construction toy and book series. The book, which is an ebook that can be downloaded onto an iPad or tablet, stars Goldie, a yellow-haired engineer complete with dungarees and toolbelt. Goldie goes on various adventures that involve solving problems by building simple machines. Her group of friends, including Nacho the dog and Phil the sloth, have to mimic what she has done using the construction set.
The first story is ‘GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine’, where Goldie builds a belt drive to spin all her friends. Sterling says that the goal with this machine is that the rotating 3D objects might lead to spatial skills development.
Sterling managed to take the concept for GoldieBlox from her sketchbook and into a working prototype in eight months. She then tested the prototype on over 100 girls. The response was so positive that she decided to take it to market. She set up her company GoldieBlox Inc and launched a KickStarter campaign to make it happen, which was successfully funded in October with over 5,000 backers and $285,881 raised (the goal was $150,000). All systems are now go and GoldieBlox is currently in production in a Chinese factory with the first toys planned to be released to the Kickstarter backers in February 2013.
‘Girls and engineering’ is ground I’ve trodden on before in a previous comment article. I do feel that in order to inspire young girls they need to be shown that careers in engineering can be varied, challenging and fun. They should be exposed to it at school and have inspiring female role models to show them that this isn’t a ‘male only’ career.
As Sterling says on her blog:
“I only knew engineering even existed because my math teacher from high school said I should explore it. I’m creating a toy company that teaches little girls what engineering is, making it fun and accessible the way Lego and Erector sets have done for boys for over 100 years. I’m making sure that girls don’t have to rely on a serendipitous comment from a teacher to realise their passion for engineering.”
I don’t know about other females, but I played with Lego when I was a girl. There was no Lego for girls as there is today (which incidentally has been shot down for gender stereotyping by campaigners), I was quite happy building post offices and aeroplanes. To me it’s a unisex toy and perhaps there should be more of those. But I’m still not wholly convinced that a toy will steer you down a particular career path but nevertheless I have to give Sterling kudos for not only being a young female engineer but also an entrepreneur (I’ll even forgive her for the silly job title she’s given herself: ‘Chief Officer of Fun’).
To see just what GoldieBlox is all about, watch this video from the Kickstarter campaign page: