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Fresh Find: Growing the Next Generation of Female Tech Innovators

Have you guys noticed the recent crop of building and designing toys hitting the shelves made specifically for girls?  This is a trend I’m beyond excited about.  You see, even at the tender age of 2, I can already tell that S is an engineer at heart.

That’s not to say other skills won’t develop as she matures – she may ultimately foster strengths in lots of other areas – but for now she’s a builder.  Yes, there’s a special spot in her heart for her babies and she appreciates a shiny bauble as much as the next girl (or boy).  But 9 times out of 10, when given the choice, she’ll go straight for the blocks (and lately even the puzzles).  Which, of course, has this eagle-eyed momma on the lookout for toys and activities to nurture those interests.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

There’s a lot being said these days about young girls and the princess complex.  Are you feeling this with your daughters?  If so, what are you doing to stop it?

I first heard about Roominate several months ago when a friend, who also has a two year old daughter, excitedly emailed me their expired kickstarter video. (Check it out below – even with the prototype cardboard version it’s still very cool.)

At the time the video was shot, Roominate was a burgeoning idea of a company looking for backers.  And they certainly found them. They asked for $25,000 in startup pledges and got nearly $86,000 – apparently I’m not the only one that thinks they’re on to something.

WHO THEY ARE

Company founders, Alice and Bettina, are two engineers out of Caltech, MIT, and Stanford who wish they saw more women in their upper level math and science classes. They believe that early exposure through toys will motivate the next generation of female technology innovators and they designed Roominate to get young girls to have fun with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), while building hands-on skills and confidence.

Here’s what Alice and Bettina have to say about their company mission:

As females in engineering, we were surprised to see the (already low) number of women decrease even more as we transitioned from undergraduate to graduate school. We wondered why we had chosen engineering.

For both of us, we realized it really started back when we were little kids, way before we had any concept of what an engineer actually was. We were most inspired by toys that let us build. Bettina played with her older brother’s legos, and the two of them built hundreds of extravagant cities and creations. Alice grew up playing in her dad’s robotics lab.

But seeing the strong divisions between girls and boys toys today, and the lack of creative building options in those girls toys, we didn’t find any girls toys that allowed for the same types of experiences that inspired us.

We knew we had to do something to solve this problem and provide more options and opportunities for girls as early as possible. We came together to design a toy that would encourage young girls to create and explore hands-on. With Roominate, we have designed a toy that builds confidence in technology and engineering, all while being intuitive and fun.

WHAT THEY DO

Roominate gives early exposure to hands-on building and circuits by allowing kids to design and build a dollhouse as well as it’s furniture and working electronic fixtures.  Based on the popularity of past circuit toys we’ve featured on MPMK, I know you guys agree with me that this in itself is a rad idea. The even more wonderful thing about Roominate is that it brings together creativity and engineering in a way that speaks to girls and how they play.

Another thing that I love is Roominate’s new monthly subscription program, in which kids receive a new Expansion Kit at the beginning of every month for 3 months. Each expansion kit includes a new circuit, more building pieces, and/or more decorations to add to their existing Roominate creations, thus maintaining their interest and allowing them to expand on their ingenuity.

Are you guys excited about this concept?  Yes?  Great, so let’s talk pricing – because I know if I were reading this post, right about now I’d be increasingly excited about the idea but wondering how much it’s going to cost me.  The sets aren’t cheap, starting at $59, but they do fall into the price range that the majority of you said you’d be willing to spend on a high quality, engaging toy (according to last Friday’s poll).  For our family, this probably wouldn’t be a toy we’d buy on a whim but it certainly is something we’d consider for a birthday or Christmas.

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For me, finding ways to foster creativity, exploration, and innovation in my kids is paramount.  To that end, if I truly believe that a toy will feed my kids’ interests and cultivate those skills then I’m in. This means that at our house we don’t spend money on toys with lots of bells, whistles and licensed characters but we are willing to spend our money to build a large sandbox, curate a slew of art supplies, or go for the delux set of high quality blocks.

Based on these parent reviews and this awesome gallery of what little girls have been cooking up – I’m thinking roominate falls into this category for us.  What do you think?  Are you as intrigued as I am?

Question of the Day

There’s a lot being said these days about young girls and the princess complex.  Are you feeling this with your daughters?  If so, what are you doing to stop it?

*This post contains affiliate links and is sponsored by the lovely ladies behind Roominate – all opinions are 100% my own.

 

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