By Reyne Rice, Trend Analyst and Trend Hunter, CEO ToyTrends, New York, USA
First posted on the YourToyCom.com blog forum and community website serving the toys, games and childrens’ technology industries, on behalf of the Spielwarenmesse. Spielwarenmesse is the leading and largest International ToyFair in the world, held annually in Nuremberg, Germany in early February.
In my last post (Dec 10, 2013), I shared details about computer programming and how children in grades Kindergarden through 12th grade (K-12) are now learning about coding, and computer science. The post described how a global effort was launched and timed in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week (December 9-15, 2013). With the final results tallied, the number of K-12 students participating has crossed 20 MILLION STUDENTS globally, across 170 countries, with over 675 million lines of written code now documented, between Dec 9th to Dec 26th.
The first 15 Million Students participated in the first 5 days.
To put this in perspective, it took FaceBook 3 years to gain 15 Million users.
An impressive effort! One of the founders of the Code.org organization, Hadi Partovi, who started the movement effort over a year ago, confirmed that just about 1 in 4 students in K-12 schools in the U.S.A participated in the “Hour of Code.” What’s more, Partovi tells us that “more girls participated in computer science in participating schools in the last two weeks than all students in the history of U.S. public schools combined.”
In the past nine months, a greater emphasis has been placed upon creating products and programs for girls. These products are intended to spark interest in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM subjects) for applied learning.. This movement has produced a number of successful crowdfunded and KickStarter campaigns. Here are some of the newer products that have either recently hit retail shelves or are slated for a Spring 2014 launch.
Build and Imagine: Provides constructible playsets that connect with magnetic storywalls for easy building and rebuilding of structures. Encourages imaginative storytelling with structured playset environments and uses 3 dimensional building components to support spatial skill development with design and engineering capabilities. The owner Laurie Peterson was compelled to create these products when she couldn’t locate suitable building components for her own young daughter. www.buildandimagine.com
GoldiBlox: Perhaps one of the most well known startups in this space, GoldiBlox founder Debbie Sterling has created a marketing powerhouse and a mission to get girls interested in engineering concepts with hands on learning. Her GoldiBlox building products and books employ gears, walls, pegs, cubes and other materials that encourage relevant building experiments to encourage girls to apply science and engineering principles with 3D tools. Her products are currently sold at ToysRUs.com, Amazon.com, and at specialty retailers. www.goldieblox.com
littleBits: littleBits consist of tiny circuit-boards with specific functions engineered to snap together with magnets. No soldering, no wiring, no programming, just snap together for prototyping, learning and fun. Each bit has a specific function (light, sound, sensors, buttons, thresholds, pulse, motors, etc), and modules snap to make larger circuits. littleBits are small, simple, intuitive, blocks that make creating with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together. www.littleBits.cc
Roominate: Offers building kits that encourage constructing structures and dream houses that use working elevators, rotating ceiling fans, spinning merry go rounds and other functioning components. By encouraging the relevant use of circuits, as a building tool, these kits are designed to encourage hands on reasoning, to develop problem solving, to promote spatial skills, and to teach basic circuitry. www.roominatetoys.com
Note: All four of these entrepreneurial companies were founded by female executives for whom the role of engineering, and the goal of building the future for girls in STEM fields is a personal mission.
Whether or not these products will indeed stimulate interest in girls to move into STEM careers in the future has yet to be proven, but opening the conversation will surely bring a wealth of opinions, further research and visibility to the topic. What is your opinion?
I would be very interested to learn about similar products launching outside of the USA, intended to stimulate interest for girls and boys in science, technology, engineering, math, (STEM subjects) and also architecture, computer science and other fields that are closely related. Please comment below and share. I will follow up on this topic and expand upon it, prior to Spielwarenmesse 2014 in Nuremberg, Germany (January 29th through February 3rd, 2014).