Legos generic

Picture a child building something with Legos. Do you imagine a boy? Why shouldn’t it be a girl?

Toys such as Legos, Connect and Lincoln Logs have long been regarded as toys for boys. That’s wrong, and it may keep girls from considering careers in engineering.

A nation that makes things makes for a stronger nation. Manufacturing creates new wealth, instead of just moving it around.

Thankfully, some companies are starting to change.

Lego now makes kits aimed at girls.

And there is an entirely new building toy aimed primarily at girls. Perhaps you saw the Goldie Blox ad during the Superbowl. It is a small company. Quicken paid for its ad as part of a contest.

Goldie Blox makes construction sets with a story behind them. They have titles such as “Goldie Blox and the Parade,” “Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine” and “Goldie Blox and the Dunk Tank.”

These include a story book, and each kit tells you what skills it builds. For example, one builds spatial skills, engineering principles and confidence in problem-solving. Each kit specifies an age group for which it is best suited, ages four to nine.

The real value comes after a girl builds the original kit, uses her imagination and skills to build devices of her own design, perhaps using parts from other sets as well.

And for the true Goldie Blox fanatic, they also offer Goldie Blox fashions.

Goldie Blox was invented by the company’s chief executive officer Debbie Sterling, a mechanical engineer out of Stanford University, who wanted to “disrupt the pink aisle” in toy stores.

Another series of building kits aimed at girls is Roominate, calling itself “the original wired dollhouse-building kit.”

Roominate is not story-oriented, but designed to allow a child to build a house and its furnishings. A variety of kits are available that can be used together.

Both Roominate and Goldie Blox have excellent websites which the builders can use as a resource for getting ideas.

Lego’s girl-oriented kits include an Eiffel Tower, a beach house, Cinderella’s castle, Cinderella’s carriage and Rapunzel’s tower.

And of course, there is no reason girls would not be interested in non-girl-oriented kits from Lego. Once any child is hooked on the idea of building things, there are all sorts of building kits for them.

If they are into electronics, I loved Radio Shack’s “150 in 1” electronic kits as a kid. I’m thrilled to see they still sell a similar kit. And I found Erector sets on Amazon, my building kit of choice when I was a kid. I had not seen them in a store in decades.

Robotics is the big thing now and Lego’s Mindstorms are available. These are popular with the outstanding robotic clubs in so many county schools.

Another kind of engineering is computer programming. For the first time ever, the University of California, Berkeley has more women signed up for the Computer Science 101 course than men. More women are getting into coding.

FamilyTechOnline.com has links to websites for girls and women promoting programming and giving them a community.

Alice, a programming language out of Carnegie Mellon University, is not designed specifically for women. It is an educational language letting student programmers make 3D models and cartoons. Young people have more fun creating cartoons than they would databases, forms or other products of conventional programming.

Once they are hooked on programming, schools will teach them the C++, Java and other languages they need in order to be professional programmers.

Mark Stout lives in Lake Ridge. He started in the personal computer business in 1980, and is a blogger and author. For links mentioned in the column, go to http://www.familytechonline.com. For more of Mark’s online activities, see http://about.me/markstout.

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