A Barbie-Like Heroine To Turn Young Girls Toward Engineering

Engineering is a disproportionately male-dominated world. And one female engineer hopes to change that with GoldieBlox, a girl-friendly engineering toy.

Engineering is a field dominated by men, despite the fact that girls often do better in math and science classes. With that myth long-dispelled, we can only look at our culture. Girls traditionally play with clothing and dolls, while boys play with weapons and Lego. We’re groomed into the roles we choose starting with the toys we’re handed as children. (And if you think I’m overgeneralizing, that’s entirely fair: But take a glance through marketing materials, and the preplanned boy/girl, blue/pink, build/nurture divide is pretty clear.)


GoldieBlox is a toy by Stanford engineering student Debbie Sterling. “While it’s true, I think girls do like pink, there’s a lot more to us than that,” she argues in the above clip. And GoldieBlox is very much designed along these lines–to bring engineering education to girls, but package it using the feminine tropes that are already so successful in popular toys.

The first of three storybooks comes with a belt-drive kit, a pegboard with wheels, axles, blocks, and a crank. This engineering system is then framed by a larger story–Goldie must use a pink ribbon (that’s the belt) to make her animal friends dance (axles spin).

“The storytelling component was my big ‘a-ha’ in terms of appealing to girls. All the other construction toys on the market come with a bunch of pieces in a box and an instruction manual. After doing extensive research, I observed quickly that girls love reading, stories, and characters,” Sterling tells Co.Design. “Once I introduced the Goldie character and her story about building a machine that helps her friends, girls engaged. It provided the context for ‘why’ they’re building the machine, rather than just the 1-2-3 steps of how to build it.”

At least from the eyes of this 30-year-old male, Goldie seems to have all the young-girl appeal of a Disney princess. She has the cartoon-idealistic long legs and flowing hair, sure, but she also has the story’s context of overcoming odds and helping her friends. It just so happens that GoldieBlox won’t need to woo a prince to fix her problems. GoldieBlox can do that all on her own.

The first GoldieBlox story/kit is available for a $30 pre-order. It will be released in 2013. And if this project sounds interesting, you might also want to check out Roominate.

Buy it here.


[Hat tip: Core77]

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.