In May, I posted about the awesome Smart Girls at the Party website, which has entertainer Amy Poehler as part of its creative team. They offered a summer camp in Austin for girls, and it apparently went well. I noticed that they have decided to expand the camp so more girls can participate. They plan to make it available online in July. There isn’t a lot of information yet, but the description does mention that the materials are being created to appeal to a broad range of ages (from 5 to over 21!). Click here to read the information they have so far!
UPDATE 11/6/14: This set has been sold out since this summer. You can find pieces of it for sale, and even the whole set for an exorbitant price. Lego states on its site that they are looking into producing more.
I am really pumped about the new Lego set to be released this August, 2014! It was just announced that it will be called, “Research Institute” and will feature three female scientists: an astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist. I must admit that I never really looked at Legos as anything but silly toys for boys until I was called on to co-sponsor a robotics club last year. Now I have seen the creativity that they can unleash, and I am really excited to see that the company is going to create a set that will not only encourage girls to see this as a more gender-neutral toy, but will also encourage them to consider S.T.E.M. careers. Congratulations to Dr. Ellen Kooijman (a geochemist) who submitted this concept on the Lego Ideas site and now gets to see her dream turned into reality!
Are you interested in all things Lego? You might want to check out my post, “Build Something Awesome.” Or, if you are interested in other educational games and toys, take a look at my Pinterest Board of recommendations.
GoldieBlox, the company devoted to encourage more females to develop interest in STEM, has had its controversies. But I think they’ve done an excellent job with their latest PSA, a video that parodies the “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign. The ad creatively shows the use of its toys to highlight the entertainment value of engineering and design. However, it also sprinkles in some sobering facts about the relatively low participation of our gender in engineering careers. I like that GoldieBlox offers explanations, resources, and links about each of these facts on its site.
In the fortuitous way that things seem to often happen in my life, I spent a fabulous Saturday morning with my daughter at a free event designed to spark girls’ interest in all things STEM related, then 24 hours later stumbled across a “Women Role Models” video on We the Geeks that reinforced all of my strong feelings about this topic.
We the Geeks is a series of Google Hangouts sponsored by the White House. The purpose is “to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. ”
In the latest episode, “Women Role Models,” several female guests are interviewed (you can see the guest list below), and give their insight on how to encourage more girls to pursue scientific careers. Many of the guests mention how influential their teachers and teachers were in stimulating their interest in science. What I heard repeated several times, though, was how important the excitement of the adult mentors can be. One guest said, “If you have an excited teacher, you’re going to be excited about it.” Another guest advised that parents should “learn with the kids… stay excited with them.” The latter point is key because, as she pointed out, if parents show that they are intimidated by science and math, that “trickles down” to the children.
Some of the other past episodes of We the Geeks have included: “Celebrating Black History Month,” “Student Startups,” and “Don’t Be Bored, Make Something.” I haven’t watched any of the other videos, yet, but they all look pretty intriguing.
One of my passions, lately, has been to find ways to encourage more girls to explore the S.T.E.M. fields. Toward that end, I recently posted some Engineering Resources for Girls. I almost included another link in that post, but decided it would fit better into a post on Technology rather than Engineering – though the two fields obviously overlap quite a bit.
The link I wanted to include is from Mental Floss. It’s called, “Inspiring Quotes from 10 Influential Women in Tech“. One of the surprises in this list was the quote from Hedy Lamarr, an actress who apparently was also a brilliant inventor. “Any girl can be glamorous. All she has to do is stand still and look stupid,” said Ms. Lamarr, co-developer of a technology that was eventually used to guide torpedoes in the U.S. Navy.
What I didn’t notice the first time I read this on-line article was that there was a video at the bottom from IBM’s “Technologista Series”. When I finally ran across it, I thought it was an ad. I looked up the YouTube description, and found this, “Women have been part of some of the most important innovations throughout IBM’s history. The Technologista Series celebrates these accomplishments by showcasing 10 technical women at IBM today. Follow the series to gain valuable insights about the unique culture of IBM as well as a chance to see the faces behind the innovations that have changed our world.”
What keeps this set of videos from being an overt IBM ad campaign are the topics and the young girls (3rd, 4th, and 5th graders) who interview the “Technologistas” in each segment. In addition to the introductory video, there are 14 short (a little over a minute long) videos – ranging from discussions of innovation to cyber security. The women emphasize many important character traits, such as leadership and creativity, and are great role models in the technology industry for young women to hear and view.
I’ve spent my time on more than a few posts bemoaning the low numbers of females in the math, science, and engineering sectors – including programming. But I’ve been heartened, recently, by a few things that I’ve seen during my internet browsing. These are some great products and websites that are designed to encourage girls to shed the only-males-can-think-logically stereotype that has lingered for far too long in our culture.
Rosie Revere, Engineer is a delightful children’s book by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts. Rosie is a young maker in the making. She tinkers and creates, but gets discouraged by everyone’s attitude toward her inventions. Great-great Aunt Rose helps little Rosie get back on the path that leads to her dreams. This book is not just for girls. It encourages everyone to learn from your mistakes. Here is a link to a page of curriculum suggestions.
Engineer Girl is a website that is graphically appealing without overdoing pink and swirly. The site features interviews with female engineers, highlights careers in this field, and has a plethora of activities and links that are sure to satisfy the curiosity of any girl with even the slightest interest in S.T.E.M.
Goldie Blox is offering a new product for pre-sale (available in December) called “Goldie Blox and the Parade Float.” The sequel to “Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine“, this $19.99 set also includes a storybook with construction pieces and design ideas. Aimed toward 4-9 year olds, these toys are specifically designed by Stanford grad Debbie Sterling to “disrupt the pink aisle.”
Roominate has been featured on this blog before. Be sure to check out this great building toy that includes electrical circuits!
The PBS Design Squad Nation website is not aimed at girls, specifically. But it should engage any young student in the excitement of building and design. It has great resources for parents and educators, and is currently sponsoring a design challenge that must be submitted by Nov. 6, 2013.
The more exposure our young people, especially the girls, get to S.T.E.M., the more children will learn about the potential they have for pursuing careers in these fields. Not all of them will develop a passion for it, but certainly it will be more than the low numbers we currently see.