Toys for Future Engineers #2: GoldieBlox

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4 July 2013 by thaliakr

In a pleasingly familiar story, Debbie Sterling, a Stanford engineer, wants to introduce girls to the world of engineering.

She’s created GoldieBlox, a set of adventure books, where the reader helps Goldie solve problems using mechanical tools that come with the books.

Debbie funded GoldieBlox through Kickstarter, reaching her goal in five days. Yay, Debbie!

I’m wary of the gender generalisations in the KickStarter proposal below, but very attracted to the idea of combining verbal and spatial skills:

When I was a little girl, I thought the word, “engineering” was nerdy and intimidating and just for boys. I’ve since learned I was so wrong. Engineers build all the important things we use every day…things that make our lives better. The scary truth is that only 11% of engineers are women and girls start losing interest in science as young as age 8! This is our chance to change that statistic.

I’m creating GoldieBlox to inspire girls the way Legos and Erector sets have inspired boys, for over 100 years, to develop an early interest and skill set in engineering. It’s time to motivate our girls to help build our future.

GoldieBlox goes beyond “making it pink” to appeal to girls. I spent a year doing in-depth research into gender differences and child development to create the 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.

GoldieBlox is the best of both worlds: reading + building. It appeals to girls because they aren’t just interested in “what” they’re building…they want to know “why.” Goldie’s stories relate to girls’ lives. The machines Goldie builds solve problems and help her friends. As girls read along, they want to be like Goldie and do what she does.

Goldie’s toolkit is inspired by common household objects and craft items — things girls are already familiar with. Plus, the set features soft textures, curved edges and attractive colors which are all innately appealing to girls. Last but not least, the story of Goldie is lighthearted and humorous. It takes the intimidation factor out of engineering and makes it fun and accessible.

What do you think? Will GoldieBlox make it onto your Christmas list? For girls only, or also for boys? I’m not completely sure, but it seems like GoldieBlox are aimed at a younger group than the Roominate toys we talked about last year.

That last paragraph of the quote makes me cringe a bit. Do all girls like ‘soft textures’ and ‘curved edges’? If so, does that mean boys can’t or won’t want to play with GoldieBlox? If not, will it put boys off unnecessarily? Or is the idea that they are well catered for with all the Lego out there?

Thanks to Frank for tipping me off. I’m keen to hear your thoughts.

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Want to see more toys for future engineers? Take a look at our post on the Roominate, which encourages girls to build and decorate a house including doing the electrical circuitry. There’s also Architect Barbie to check out!

If you’ve got other tips of toys aimed at encouraging girls into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, please leave a comment. 

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6 thoughts on “Toys for Future Engineers #2: GoldieBlox

  1. Caroline says:

    It does look a bit TOO girly! And it doesn’t have the flexibility of things like Lego that you can play with in many ways on many different levels. Lego have started doing girl-targeted Lego sets in the UK, which I think are quite useful to go alongside the basic bricks and get some girls into Lego, in the same way that the cars, castles etc provide a hook to get some boys into Lego. We’re enjoying them anyway!

  2. andrew says:

    great concept. good idea tying the toy into a story to provide a basis for the construction.
    i wonder how much scope it has for making it up as you go along, as that’s one of the more enjoyable things of lego rather than making only the things on the box.

    meccano could probably do similar if they provided context for their toys

  3. Alex says:

    Hmmm. I don’t think this will be making it onto our shopping list any time soon, to be honest. To my eyes, the soft pastels and rounded edges almost entirely obscure the engineering good behind the idea (but I realise that is in itself a very shallow and superficial reaction).
    I’m probably not best placed to comment, though. I’m sure we did have lego (the normal, primary colour solid block stuff) as children, but I don’t have any strong memories of really loving playing with it. M. hasn’t really got into it yet either – he does have a couple of sets, but they very rarely come out. Possibly because they are quite restrictive, being thematic rather than general. I’ve been reluctant to pay out for a large selection of the generic stuff, given the lack of interest to date, although perhaps the two are connected… In any case, his little sister has so far shown much more interest in building with the larger duplo bricks – and, in fact, playing with the products of his lego kits – than M., so perhaps we’ll get into it through her. Whether that will be via girl-targeted sets or not remains to be seen!

  4. […] girls to build and decorate a house including doing the electrical circuitry. There’s also one on GoldieBlox, which combines mechanical problem-solving with an adventure story featuring girl […]

  5. […] to see more toys for future engineers and architects? Take a look at our post on GoldieBlox, which combines mechanical problem-solving with an adventure story featuring girl characters. And […]

  6. […] Toys for Future Engineers #2: GoldieBlox […]

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