The face of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics toys is slowly changing. Although for the past 100 years these toys were designed primarily for young white boys, today's entrepreneurs, digital media artists, and manufacturers are challenging the historic belief that girls and people of color don't like to build, code, or innovate. Women make up less than 14% of the world's engineers, and according to Scientific American, 14% of all Bachelor's Degrees, 9% of Master's, and 6% of Doctorates in STEM are awarded to people of color. The numbers are quite dismal. Fortunately, here are five STEM gaming products that are trying to make a change.
GoldiBlox is a story and construction set aimed at getting girls to build. The predominantly pink and purple sets are uniquely designed to tap into a young girl's strong verbal skills while developing their spatial skills. According to the company website, there's only 14% of female engineers worldwide, and most girls tend to lose interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics around 8 years old. One of the contributing factors is construction toys cultivate an early interest in STEM; however, for the past century, these toys were exclusively marketed to boys. GoldiBlox creator Debbie Sterling hopes to change that by "disrupting the pink aisle" to inspire future female engineers.
Courtesy of Goldiblox
This Disney television series is about a 6-year-old African American girl who fixes toys in her backyard playhouse, which serves as her clinic. The series is produced by Chris Nee of Brown Bag Films. McStuffins is one of a handful of African American STEM role models that is slowly changing the face of children educational programming. Viewers can further explore the fields of medicine and veterinary science by playing with a number of games including Doc McStuffins Operations Board Game, Doc McStuffins Pet Vet On-the-Go Pet Carrier, LEGO Doc McStuffins Backyard Clinic Set, and Play-Doh Doc McStuffins Check-up Kit.
Courtesy of Wal-Mart
These are smart, programmable friendship bracelets made for girls. This wearable is open source, which allows users to create their own programming. By pairing it with its smartphone app, the bracelet can be used for scheduling, social media, and weather notifications. Girls can even define the functionality of their collaborative wearables so they can exchange messages with each other, or have their bracelet light up when their BFFL is close by.
Another building toy that helps develop cognitive and spatial skills is Roominate. Founders Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen met in their master's of engineering program at Stanford. As female engineering students, they were a minority. After sharing their reasons for entering STEM, they learned that their childhood toys sparked their initial interest. They decided to create Roominate, which uniquely blends, "building, circuits, design, crafts, storytelling, and creativity" to teach kids while they play. In 2014, they went on Shark Tank, and successfully landed an investment deal with Mark Cuban. His investment helped expand Roominate and reach more female innovators of tomorrow.
Courtesy of Roominate
This toy company educates young girls about "basic circuit theory, design thinking, and engineering logic" through interactive art, crafts, and wearables. The Creative Circuit Kits give girls the tools needed to light up their world by developing fashion, crafts, and art projects. Blink Blink is particularly unique, because it is not only STEM. It is a STEAM toy that combines science, technology, engineering and math with art. The integration of art with STEM enables young girls to explore the full spectrum of their creative minds.
Courtesy of Blink Blink