Jan
08
2012

Robots for girls

I was recently blissing out at a toy store that sells an impressive selection of science toys and kits (side note: I am going to be the world's coolest aunt when my little nephew gets a little older--I have my eye on a kit that lets you raise live praying mantises from mail-order eggs. I'm sure my sister and brother-in-law will love it!), when I saw a series of toy kits for making little motorized vehicles out of gears and wires and stuff. You know the type. What was interesting about these toys is that they weren't just cars and trucks, but things like chariots pulled by unicorns, with a princess doll in the kit, or a horse that would flap its motorized wings. Yep, these were...robots for girls.
Robot for Girls: Regular robot + pink fur = robot for girls.
Robot for Girls: Regular robot + pink fur = robot for girls.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A quick internet search for "robots for girls" offers a couple different examples of electronic toys marketed at girls, like Fijit Friends and Penbo. It's pretty clear that these are intended for girls: they're fuzzy, they're pink and purple, they have wide, adorable eyes, and in Penbo's case the toy is actually a mama with a cute fluffy baby penguin inside its tummy.

So what's to be made of the whole "robots for girls" thing? My reaction there in the toy store aisle was basically, "Aw, sweet, a robot unicorn with gears inside and stuff!" Kids are pretty sensitive to the kinds of toys that they're supposed to like, especially along gender lines (and there's some research indicating that gendered toy preference might be biological in origin). A techy version of an acceptably feminine toy, like a flying horse, gives girls the same casual access to technology that toys like Capsela have given boys.

On the other hand, I can't quite turn off the piece of my brain that's irritated by the implication that girls' soft little brains can't handle "real" tech toys, and that robots have to be covered in pink fur and cutesy eyes for girls to use them. Still, I guess that even fuzzy pastel tech for girls is better than no tech for girls, and my ultimate verdict is to give robots for girls the thumbs-up. What say you, oh Science Buzz community?

Postscript: This program, called Cricket Craft Clubs, is aimed at girls ages nine to twelve and came out of the observation that students in an MIT robotics competition, mostly men, and an analogous robotic design class at the all-female Wellesley College, approached robotics differently but in equally sophisticated ways. What I most like about this idea is that there's nothing particularly gendered about the raw parts, so girls (and boys) using them aren't automatically steered toward any particular end product. (The Cricket parts are available as a kit here. I'm pretty sure my little nephew is going to need one of these someday. And when I say "my little nephew" here, I actually mean, um...me.)

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Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

it sounds fun!!!!!!!!!

posted on Sat, 03/03/2012 - 5:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i am a girl and am thinking about becoming a genetic engineer. Hah all you peoples......

posted on Thu, 03/15/2012 - 3:55pm
ms next big thing's picture
ms next big thing says:

i think that this would be cool if i were all ready a adult but i all ready just love tech toys so this is just my thing i would love to know more

posted on Thu, 04/05/2012 - 6:25pm
a cool person's picture
a cool person says:

i think that this idea is great for our girls to have lots of cool fun stuf<3

posted on Mon, 07/02/2012 - 3:39pm
girls rule's picture
girls rule says:

Girls aren't any different than boys.

posted on Sun, 10/07/2012 - 2:58pm
nicky  's picture
nicky says:

Girls arent any different than boys.

posted on Sat, 10/13/2012 - 1:39pm
no name please's picture
no name please says:

It doesn't mean girls are different than boys. In the late 1800s, Oberlin College became the first that accepted women. The women got to learn all sorts of things they could never learn and earn college degrees. But Oberlin also wanted the females to remember their role as women, so they had to wash the men's clothes serve them food and clean up afterwards. See how bad the role as a female used to be in the past? Well I'm a part of the girl kingdom and I'm happy that our role was about 50-50.

posted on Sat, 10/13/2012 - 1:51pm
No name   's picture
No name says:

Think of the people that invent that kinda stuff!!! They have to be pretty smart people.......

posted on Sat, 03/23/2013 - 4:34pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

Wouldn't it be cool if the girls could pick out the robot design they wanted? Maybe through a custom order online or something like that. That could lead to more girls and even young women being interested in STEM through these robots. STEM is not just for boys, but girls too!

posted on Sat, 04/20/2013 - 6:51pm

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