Want Your Little Girl to Become an Engineer?
Check out these favorite toys that inspired today's female engineers
With the launch of Goldie Blox, a new engineering line of toys for girls, I am hoping that there will be a shift in the kind of toys being created specifically for young girls. I love baby dolls and Barbies (I had many growing up and my daughters do, as well), but I have to admit I’d like to see more options out there. Lucy Sanders, who heads up the National Center for Women and Information Technology, says that, “Children’s toys greatly influence how they see themselves and what they become.” The toy industry, however, has been slow to embrace more math and science-related toys for girls. Here’s hoping that will change soon.
In the meantime, a group of female engineers were asked by The Washington Post about their favorite toys as children. Here’s what these brilliant women gravitated toward, even when they were as young as toddlers:
Wooden pattern blocks
Meha Agrawal, The Muse back-end engineer, was most inspired by a set of different wooden shapes where each shape corresponded with a specific color. She writes, “Though individually boring, collectively these blocks produced an intricate masterpiece that brought art and math, big-picture and detail, simplicity and complexity closer together—similar to software engineering. These blocks inspired me to think logically, creatively and symmetrically simultaneously—all strategies I utilize today as a full-stack software engineer.”
Legos (especially Lego Robotics)
Laura Matthews, NYU Ph.D. student in biological anthropology, says, “The toy that shaped my childhood was Legos, especially Lego robotics, though admittedly for more reasons than just the pure play. I enjoyed Legos from an early age, since while there are an infinite number of combinations, the individual pieces and how they fit together are quite discrete. I like when individual pieces have rules about how they fit with each other.”
Kitt Vanderwater, Google software engineer, writes, “MarbleWorks was a toy that ignited the same passions and ambitions that computer science does. When I write code, and wait for it to run, I get that same jolt of excitement I did when I sent the first test marble down an elaborate course. And the best part is that both MarbleWorks and engineering make it easy to be successful.”
Grace Gee, a Harvard junior studying computer science, comments, “I didn’t love many toys, but I loved Neopets, an online virtual pet game. I hoarded Neopoints by spending hours on the Maths Nightmare game. I hacked at the auctioning system to get the puzzle pieces to the secret labs. These elementary game-theory concepts eventually stuck on me even after I abandoned my Kacheek.”
Patricia Cristina Perozo, a freshman at Stanford, intends to major in computer science. She writes, “I was given ello as a child and really enjoyed creating houses, people, animals and furniture out of the pieces. It was like Legos but more interesting and directed at girls. Although I will never become an architect I believe that it really contributed to my spatial understanding and problem solving capabilities.
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