Deirdre Moore | December 2017
A STEAM Gift for your Budding Engineer
The holiday season is upon us and for many, that means lots of shopping. If you have any little girls on your list and you are stumped for the perfect gift, I just might have the answer for you. GoldieBlox, Girl Inventor. GoldieBlox is a character created by female engineer, Debbie Sterling. She realized during her engineering program in school that she was at a disadvantage. Why? Because she had not grown up playing with construction toys like most of her male counterparts! Her answer was to combine love of story with engineering to create construction toys. Toys geared toward little girls so that the next generation of female engineers might not experience that same disadvantage.
A Disadvantage in Engineering
While listening to Debbie Sterling’s TEDx Talk I was struck by something she said. She mentioned that in her engineering program, the biggest obstacle was her difficulty 3D drawing. She found it so challenging, she was tempted to drop out of the program. After realizing her difficulty, Debbie decided to do some research. She learned that children who grew up playing with construction toys tended to have stronger spatial skills.
Debbie felt cheated that she had grown up playing with dolls while many of the males in her engineering classes had been building with Legos, strengthening those necessary spatial skills. Spatial skills have always challenged me. I remember being at a teacher training, working with 3D drawings. We had to choose shapes that fit together and I was having trouble. I felt so stupid! This is something my students are expected to do… and I was expected to teach them! So when I heard her say that she felt cheated, I could completely relate. I did too.
Like Debbie, I did not grow up with construction toys. I don’t know if I would have played with them if I did. (But I have a feeling I might have if I had been given GoldieBlox!) When Debbie decided she wanted to create construction toys geared toward girls, she created prototypes and met with young girls to get feedback on the toys. She found the girls would get bored with the toys quickly. When she asked them what they wanted to play, they would bring her books. So Debbie had the brilliant idea to combine the two, creating stories with a character that solved problems by building simple machines. I have not seen the research and I don’t know if girls tend to be more motivated by stories than boys are, but I know that I am!
When Debbie was informed by industry experts that construction toys for girls don’t sell, Debbie decided to use Kickstarter to fund her first production. She met her fundraising goal in just 4 days and found that not only did this toy sell but that people were looking for something like this. Toys stores were getting requests for GoldieBlox so Debbie had to manufacture more. She seemed to have found an untapped market.
So, if you have a little girl on your gift list or if you are an elementary school teacher stocking up your books and games for a rainy day, you might think of checking out the line of toys from GoldieBlox. You may just inspire some little girl to see herself as an engineer and be giving her the skills she will need to become one!