We’ve had our strong disagreements with efforts to get more girls interested in science. While some feel the effort should not be made to appeal to girls at all (not out of chauvanism, but out of the idea that there should be no consideration for gender learning & play processes) our main issue has often been with the very poor execution of said efforts: from the utterly disastrous European Commision’s ‘Science, Its a girl Thing’ video to several science toy companies very poor efforts to appeal to girls by presenting them with inferior versions of boy’s science toys.
The key problem in the past has been a lack of innovation. Slapping a pink label on a science kit, putting a pretty, pretty princess on the box, disguising the kit as something else besides science are all things that have been tried before and hardly even qualified as ‘innovation’. But now at least some efforts are being made to address the issue.
Goldie Blox is a case of innovation that would not exist without the internet. The company is a start-up, not a major toy company, and was funded via kickstarter, the famous home of armchair venture angel investors. The company was conceived by Debbie Starling, a Stanford engineer who has made it her life’s work to tackle the gender gap in science & engineering.
Starling’s idea was simple: do some actual research on how girls play & learn and then design a product that would be educational and fun. The research found that girls tend to ‘play with purpose’. In other words, they want an end to their means. While boys may take a construction toy and start slapping pieces together, girls prefer to have some reason to do so. (Note: we are grossly, grossly overstating the research here).
To that end the character of Goldie Blox was invented. Unlike the blonde princess of Be Amazing’s girl toy line or a Barbie Doll, Goldie has overalls and a tool belt.
For a toy with purpose, a story was made for the toy to be demonstrated: Goldie has a pet dog named Nacho (along with a lot of other friends as we shall see). Nacho wants to chase his tail, and Goldie wants to help out. To that end Goldie develops the Spinning Machine.
The story of the Spinning Machine is told with a book included with the Spinning Machine. As children read they also build various parts and extensions to the Spinning Machine. The story does not just begin and end with a tail-chasing dog named Nacho, soon everyone is in on the act and the Spinning Machine gets quite complicated:
While children work with the Spinning Machine they learn a lot of basic concepts about a system known as a belt drive, which is used in all sorts of machinery.
As indicated from the title, this is expected to be part of a whole series of science/engineering toys not merely aimed at girls, but designed for girls. Time will tell if it is a success but so far the pre-launch hype has definitely garner attention.
Do you want to buy Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine?