#DreamUP with GoldieBlox
In her wonderful TEDxPSU talk, “Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Engineers,” Debbie Sterling talks so passionately about her quest to inspire girls to become creative builders. She says that “only 11% of engineers in the US are women” and she mentions that girls lose their interest in math and science as early as age 6. These girls are surrounded by pink princesses in the toy aisle while their male counterparts are given LEGOS and building toys. Sterling says that because of this, girls grow up with underdeveloped spatial skills and a dwindling interest in math and science.
You can watch the whole TEDx talk here:
When Sterling majored in engineering in college, she said she felt out of place as a female in a male-dominated classroom, but this only made her more determined to inspire young girls to follow in her footsteps and become engineers. Through some trial and error, Sterling realized that the girls she worked with related to story and narrative, so she combined what she calls “spatial + verbal.” She came up with a character named GoldieBlox for the girls to follow as they played with interactive building toys, enhancing their spatial skills, and developing an appreciation for engineering.
The GoldieBlox toys are described on the website like so:
Sterling was told that construction toys for girls don’t sell, but she wasn’t deterred. She developed the prototype for the GoldieBlox engineering toys for girls that was funded in just 4 days on Kickstarter. Here’s the video:
Then, according to Upworthy:
“A year later, after hitting the shelves of Toys R Us, becoming the #1-selling board game on Amazon, and helping a bunch of young girls realize their science, technology, engineering, and math talents, the amazing folks at GoldieBlox made another ad for the Intuit Small Business Big Game contest.”
And through the Intuit Big Business Big Game Contest, Goldieblox won a commercial spot at the Super Bowl. This is the incredible ad that was seen by over 100 million people:
You can check out the GoldieBlox YouTube page for more videos like this one with 7 year-old Sabrina and the “princess machine”:
In her TEDx talk, Sterling said that girls should be encouraged to be more engaged in engineering at a younger age because “engineering is for people.” It’s not just for men; it’s for everyone. She said she didn’t even know what engineering was when her math teacher in high school suggested that she major in the subject in college. She had envisioned an engineer as an older man driving a train. This is fascinating too because we have so many preconceived ideas of what an engineer is, what an engineer does, and when we close our eyes we will most likely see a generic image of an engineer as a man.
Sterling points out that engineering really just utilizes creativity and teaches people to be innovators and problem solvers. And creativity is for everyone. It should be fostered in all children. Sterling talked about how, if given the opportunity at a young age, girls will become passionate about problem solving, especially when they’re connecting with a narrative and becoming part of an interactive story with a character (GoldieBlox) who is smart and capable. They also develop the spatial skills at the same time boys do so they won’t feel inadequate or discouraged in math and science classes at school.
Sterling spoke enthusiastically about engaging with “little girls in tutus building belt drives” and this is a wonderful image of an engineer to replace the one that we’ve been taught to see in our heads when we close our eyes and automatically imagine a man in a conductor’s uniform or a studious and bearded gentleman in a lab.
Inspired by Sterling and her GoldBlox engineering tools, I stumbled onto several articles about an engineering elementary school in South Carolina that takes a more creative approach to teaching, encouraging all the young kids to be innovators. You can read more about that in this article from The Atlantic.
I also found some wonderful websites for young engineers, like Roominate:
and Engineer Girl:
Then this article randomly appeared in my ‘feed about the little girl in the 1981 LEGO ads:
The article quoted the girl (now 37) as saying:
“In 1981, LEGOs were simple and gender-neutral, and the creativity of the child produced the message. In 2014, it’s the reverse: the toy delivers a message to the child, and this message is weirdly about gender.”
This caught my eye. It’s important to note that gender neutral toys that once delivered messages of creativity are now delivering messages of gender. We can — and are — changing that paradigm, I hope.
Then I switched to Twitter and caught this wonderful little TED Talk by Maya Penn, the entrepreneur, designer, cartoonist, activist who started her own business at age 8. It really made me excited for this new generation of girls who are smart, ambitious, and creative. They’re taught early on that it’s a wonderful thing to innovate and engineer their own path and they’re being encouraged to #DreamUp.
*For more information on GoldieBlox, check out these two Upworthy articles: