Super Bowl: GoldieBlox toys aim to make girls engineers

Very few Super Bowl ads caught my attention but I stopped cold and watched little girls drag their pink toys down the street to the tune of Quiet Riot’s “Come On Feel the Noise.” They appeared to be making a bonfire, but it was actually a girl-made rocket ship that shot off into the space.

The ad was from a new company called GoldieBlox, which was created by 30-year-old Stanford-trained engineer Debbie Sterling. Her mission is to disrupt the pink toy aisle by creating toys that encourage girls to build and problem solve. (Click here to see how this start-up won the prime ad space.)

From Forbes.com:

“We are taught from a very young age that we want to become princesses,” explained Sterling in a 2013 TED talk. At present, 14 per cent of the country’s engineers are women, according to a 2012 congressional report. As she told a rapt TED audience: “Just because this is the way things are doesn’t mean this is how they have to be.”

“Armed with both her engineering degree and a stint in marketing, Sterling set herself a goal of “disrupting the pink aisle” — with the eventual aim of encouraging more girls to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).”

“Fast forward to 2013. After raising far more than her original $150,000 crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter, Sterling and her small team set about getting her toy prototype manufactured.”

“Each GoldieBlox kit combines a construction toy and a book that features Goldie, a smart young girl wearing a tool belt who helps solves problems by building machines. Soon enough, Toys ‘R’ Us came calling; more recently, Target agreed to start carrying GoldieBlox.”

I have to admit I was a little bit cynical when I first saw the ad. We’ve all seen the pink Legos and the pink Nerf sets but after watching Sterling’s video explaining her vision, I truly believe she wants girls to know they can be more than princesses.

Click here to watch Sterling explain how the toys work to encourage building. She combined a book with building implements. A story with friendly characters lead them through building what is essentially an engineering project.

So what do you think of the concept? The ad? The toys themselves? Is this a sincere effort to further STEM education for girls or a marketing ploy? Would you buy these toys for your girls? (I think I would buy for my 6-year-old.)

17 comments Add your comment

HB

February 3rd, 2014
7:44 am

“Is this a sincere effort to further STEM education for girls or a marketing ploy?”

It can’t be both?

Mother of 2

February 3rd, 2014
8:10 am

I think it’s a little of both, but I’m okay with it. I think that girls and boys should be encouraged to experiment with all sorts of things, not be pused into engineering, STEM, or anything else. I like the idea of gender neutral toys, but it’s a parents job to make sure that their children have access to, and feel comfortable with, all sorts of games, toys, opportunities. It may be true that many girls want to become princesses at young ages, but boys want to become Batman, or professional sports icons.

I would certainly buy the toys for girls. I would also buy a princess dress.

scrappy-22

February 3rd, 2014
9:25 am

I like the ad, and I like the concept. Some disruption in the pink aisle is badly needed. I tired to buy something not pink and not princess-y for Christmas and found it nearly impossible.

As soon as my son is old enough, I think I will get on for him.

Kat

February 3rd, 2014
10:00 am

This is Bob the Builder but with girl power. You don’t NEED to buy this particular brand for your girls, just buy what you want. Science kits and construction/engineering kits are not off limits to girls. Buy what you want! This is not that difficult.

WitchyWoman

February 3rd, 2014
10:04 am

I’m lucky, my 9yo daughter is a a bit of a tomboy so she is not into the pink aisle. She loves Legos and we have a huge plastic container of different sets we’ve bought over the years. We have Ninjago, Ninja Turtles, Chima, and Lego Friends (the girl sets). They even have Mind Craft Lego sets. She also takes a Lego Robotics Engineering class that teaches her to program robots made from Legos.

I think this is a great idea for girls who feel that Legos aren’t for them because they are boy themed. My kid didn’t care she just wanted to build. That being said Lego sets ain’t cheap (they use to be) and if you want the programmable ones (Mindstorm) they can run as high as $500. Hopefully this will be more affordable and stay that way.

Atlanta Mom

February 3rd, 2014
10:21 am

I’m with Kat. I raised 3 STEM girls. I think it has more to do with the attitude in the home than the pink in the toy aisle.

Techmom

February 3rd, 2014
10:26 am

I like the concept. I’m not completely against dolls and dressing up but I’m all about offering toys that also incorporate learning. I always gravitated toward the “boy” toys growing up; when girls were talking about the number of Barbies or Cabbage Patch Kids they had (and I did have a couple of each but never knew what to do with them once they were dressed), I was busy playing with the rocket kits, Legos and race car tracks. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these kits for my niece as she gets a bit older.

Hidden Agenda

February 3rd, 2014
12:18 pm

If too many girls start problem solving and thinking for themselves, they will end up drugged on Ritalin to create conformity just like most boys are these days. The concept is great, but the schools simply can’t handle creative thinking or independent personalities.

Jaynie

February 3rd, 2014
12:26 pm

Since I have always done things for myself, I have never pushed my daughters nor granddaughters into the “princess” mode. I can build shelves, wire an outlet and do other household chores that were traditionally done by men. My daughters and granddaughters have had trucks, hammers, etc., all their lives. I’ve also taught my grandsons how to cook and bake. That being said, I think each child should be encouraged to explore many options for fields of study before deciding what they want to be when they grow up. I’m glad to see more people are thinking that girls can and should study science, math and engineering if that is of interest to them. I grew up in the early 50’s where girls were supposed to be pretty, quiet, and maybe be a secretary, nurse or teacher, until they found a husband. I’m encouraged that girls and science are no longer thought to be polar opposites.

missnadine

February 3rd, 2014
12:42 pm

I like the concept and feel it is LONG overdue. That said, I wish they also would have taken the lead to have their products made in the US. I would and do pay a little more for products that are US-made, and I think this company would have been even more impressive had they chosen that route.

motherjanegoose

February 3rd, 2014
3:21 pm

I did not watch the Super Bowl nor the commercials.

@ HA…seriously?

Here is one question for you:

Have you ever worked with a child who is medicated and seen the difference of before and after?
Children with ADHD are typically very bright and often the medication can allow them to channel/focus much better. When they are not medicated they wander and fidget…not living up to their amazing potential. Sad for them and distracting for those around them.

Truth…schools cannot handle 5 out of 25 kids who are wandering around, interrupting and distracting the entire class. If your child belonged to the remaining 20, you would not want it either.

I am very independent. My daughter has followed in my footsteps. She has friends who do not typically think quickly on their feet. She has shared various situations with me and it is quite interesting. She is a leader at both of her jobs and her employers have complimented her on this aspect of her personality.

Denise

February 3rd, 2014
3:44 pm

Love it. I am an engineer – not the building kind because I can’t build jack. I don’t remember ever wanting to be a princess or an engineer or a lawyer or a doctor or a…. I became a chemist and an engineer based upon what I thought I would like from my high school classes. I love seeing my 6 year old niece dressed up in her tutus and tights and sequined shoes (she is, um, ‘eclectic’) but I would also like to see her learn to love science and math. I gave her some Doc McStuffins books at Christmas and maybe I’ll find her some other things that will expose her to different things. She is already very independent and thinks for herself. If she does not like something she won’t do it. We’ll see how it goes.

Bisnono

February 3rd, 2014
7:57 pm

Smart girls are ostracized by their peers. See the girl in the corner who stopped speaking up in class because she got teased for being a “know-it-all”? The one who stopped answering questions because her teacher chastised her for correcting him/her in front of the class? The one who spends lunch hour reading rather than gossiping? All the toys in the world won’t change the fact that the princess group of girls can make school hell for girls who are bright and who maybe are wired to think rather than just accept what the teacher says as fact. And through all of this, it’s the smart girls who suffer, are teased, tormented, bullied. I applaud anyone who can get young girls truly engaged in math and science–but it’s our society that emphasizes beauty as being more valuable than brains in women. And until we change that thinking, girls will still not be well-represented in careers that are heavy in math and science knowledge.

Atlanta mom

February 3rd, 2014
11:11 pm

Bisnono, smart kids find each other. Yes, sometimes girls find boys and sometimes boys find girls. And it’s tough to be smart, no matter which sex you are. It’s a parent’s job to help them through that.

beth

February 4th, 2014
5:53 pm

” I think it has more to do with the attitude in the home than the pink in the toy aisle.”

I couldn’t agree with Atlantamom more. The pink isles exist because parents buy that crap. If a little girl wants to play baseball, buy her a regular baseball bat and glove… not a pink one. If a girl wants to play with a truck…. buy her a regular (primary colored) truck, not a pink one. Fire trucks are red, cop cars are blue/white, basketballs are orange etc. The pink isle exists because parents push it on their little girls. I don’t think pink legos were created to entice little girls into science/engineering. Pink legos were created because parents of little girls wouldn’t buy regular or primary colored ones for their sweet girlies. But I don’t think they do it on purpose. I don’t think most don’t even realize how they stereotype their own children and put them in this box.

When my daughter was a toddler I always stuck with primary colored toys. If she picked pink or pastel, that was fine. We just never put labels on it. I remember very clearly the first time she realized that what she likes is considered by society to be a “boy toy”. She was 4. It was at a Mcdonald’s drive thru when they asked Boy or Girl toy??? I reluctantly said “boy toy” and she piped up from the back…”HEY, I like superheroes and I’m not a boy”!!!!! That was a sad day for me because it was her first understanding of how society would try to put her in a box.

Now she is 8 and is gifted athlete and student. She is thriving in our school’s gifted program, a member of the championship chess club, loves horses, arts and crafts, math/science, and plays on a flag football league (only girl on team), and takes a yoga class once a week.

Pink definitely has more to do with the attitue in the home than the toy isle at the store.

Ann

February 5th, 2014
2:04 am

I think we are starting to see some changes in the STEM related toy market, in part, due to young women that are CEO’s of new companies. My son builds things with Little Bits electronics parts, open source electronics where you can build all kinds of things, using the parts and things around the house. The founder of the company, Ayah Bdeir, is a female engineer who also enjoyed art, and she melded those two interests into the Little Bits idea. The little bits are designed in ways that would appeal to boys and girls. And, you can build simple things or more complex things, so it can spark kids’ interests in engineering no matter what level they are starting at.

I think you can have both a sincere effort to further stem education among girls and also use marketing to get your product out there. Some of these company founders are sincere, but they are also trying to make a living and grow their business. They wouldn’t have success otherwise.

Michael Greenwood

February 7th, 2014
8:24 am

There’s nothing wrong with gender stereotyping to an extent. After all, girls do prefer pink and boys prefer blue. These are just our social norms. However, nor is there anything wrong in girls becoming engineers. And at a young age both girls and boys will tend to play with trucks but you’ll rarely find a little boy playing with a barbie doll, an action man is more likely.