“Girls To Build A Spaceship, Girls To Code A New App, Girls To Grow Up Knowing They Can Engineer That”
Lyrics from the fantastic new commercial by GoldieBlox, a company founded by Debra Stirling (Stanford graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering/Product Design), championing to “disrupt the pink aisle” with a toy that introduces girls to the joy of engineering at a young age.
GoldieBlox’s vision for this video was to “showcase the amazing inventive power that girls have”. They re-wrote the lyrics to the Beastie Boys’ Girls and hired six engineers, Brett Doar (of OK Go! fame) and three fantastic young girls to transform a house into a “princess machine.” It’s such a refreshing take on commercials for girls’ toys and made me smile all the way through (and it’s catchy!).
When first hearing about GoldieBlox last year I was pleasantly surprised that rather than developing something stereotypical, a pink lego sort of product per se, it really seemed to have a solid basis. Debra Stirling has certainly done her research concerning gender differences, child education and how children learn and interact. Stirling built GoldieBlox using the notion that boys were more interested in building while girls generally prefered reading and other verbal skills. Therefore having a book incorporated into GoldieBlox helped the girls to stay focussed on that whilst carrying the out the activity alongside it. She stated last year that the boys playing with GoldieBlox liked to spin the dog as fast as possible until it fell off after completing the build, whilst the girls spun it gently using the ribbon. The success of GoldieBlox will hopefully continue to grow, with the new commercial a finalist to be aired at Superbowl (vote for it here!).
Maykah, a company formed by a group of three Stanford grad students is also aiming to inspire the next generation of female technology innovators. Their first toy Roominate inspired by an early dollhouse memory, allows young girls to attach and custom-build a miniature room with working circuits to their dollhouse.
Influencing girls at a young age with toys like this, encouraging girls to build and engineer, really is the key to inspiring them and setting them on a course to consider STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at a later stage. LEGO, once described by Jezebel as simply making money through “girls conditioned to want pink and sparkly toys about ponies and princesses” rather than trying to change the status quo, has also released a new female scientist minifigure with a further set of female STEM career minifigures planned to come.
At a young age, I, although given Barbies to play with as a child, much preferred putting together train sets or toy car race tracks and playing with space shuttles, toys mainly targeted at boys with their product marketing and places in the toyshop aisle. I feel that being encouraged to play with these toys rather than shunned, played a large part in allowing me to start to understand physics and become inquisitive about how the world around me worked, especially when I was young before it feeling like simply school work (which it never was..). That wonder about the universe and how it was formed led me to where I am today working as Engineer with an background in astrophysics and space engineering. If toys like GoldieBlox had been around when I was younger, how many more girls would’ve decided to follow their true path towards learning about engineering and physics, rather than simply fitting in by playing with Barbies?
With girls deciding by the age of 11 to move away from studying science, toys like these are important to bring STEM into their lives in an enjoyable way when they’re young and to prevent stereotypes from forming in the first place.
Personally I hope that these toys sell out at Christmas!