Technology dolls: toys for young engineers
Image credit: Getty images, Alamy, Mattel, Thames & Kosmos, Pinkcatshop.com, Lego
Computer engineer Barbie is just one of a new wave of tech-oriented characters to hit the pink aisle.
Was there a toy other than the usual construction sets that inspired you to think about a career in engineering when you were growing up? Tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Claiming to be the world’s first girl engineer character, Goldie is an action figure whose accessories are compatible with GoldieBlox construction sets. Articulated shoulders, hips, knees and joints along with specially designed hands and feet are designed for action. A zipline kit helps develop problem-solving skills while learning about basic engineering principles. Sidekick Ruby Rails is a skydiver whose accessories are designed to teach the theory of aerodynamics.
“If you give a girl a different toy, she will tell a different story” is the slogan of what are claimed to be the first female action figures designed specifically for girls, with superpowers based on admirable character traits. Series 2 - ‘Wisdom’ - includes technology-friendly characters like Logic, Creativity, Ingenuity, Curiosity, Exploration and Mastery. Named one of the year’s 25 best inventions by Time magazine and finalist in two categories of the US Toy Industry Association’s 2017 Toy of the Year awards.
A range of dolls based on strong female role models from across the generations who did amazing things to inspire girls includes Nobel prize winner Manya, aka Marie, Curie.
Inspired by female characters like Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Jo in ‘Little Women’, Nancy Drew and George in the ‘Famous Five’, Lottie dolls encourage youngsters to “embrace individuality, enjoy their childhood and embark on adventures”. Robot Girl Lottie encourages children to help design a robot for a school science fair using only recycled materials and includes practical suggestions. There’s also a fossil hunter set, butterfly collector, and a Stargazer astronomer that was designed in partnership with the European Space Agency.
Dream Big Friends
Yuna, who loves science and wants to own her own rocket company, is one of a range of characters aimed at filling a gap in the market for dolls that encourage imagination.
2014 brought a special Lego set featuring a female palaeontologist, an astronomer and a chemist. The Research Institute created by geoscientist Ellen Kooijman includes a booklet with information about Kooijman and an introduction to each profession. A ‘Women of Nasa’ set is due for release later in 2017.
Barbie has become more than a dumb blonde clothes horse in recent years with aspirational ‘I Can Be’ figures including careers like pilot, marine biologist, architect, palaeontologist, doctor and even president (in white, black, asian and hispanic versions). A ‘STEM kit’ that encouraged girls to mend a washing machine or build racks for their shoes and make jewellery got a frosty reception from some but there’s also a laptop-equipped game developer, or a computer engineer. (“Help Barbie fix the company’s computer network and save the day!”) For less mundane role-play, astronaut Barbie is “on a mission to Mars while looking stylish” even if it’s a repeat of a journey she made during the 1960s.