Apr 17, 2007

Students Weigh in on Marketing Science to Girls

In February I started a discussion about how we might interest more girls in science. Even though I was interested in the broader view, the discussion seemed to focus mostly on whether a variety of colored parts would appeal to girls. A class of teenagers recently weighed in on the subject and you might find their extensive comments interesting. It sounds like the boys are the ones most interested in some color variety! Check out their comments here.

6 comments:

222Doc said...

I am impressed, just having read the response from the children the teacher posted. Wow, it makes me think that perhaps Mindstorms should be mandatory class in all schools. With out doubt it shows more merit than much of what is being spent on other studies. The letters were articulate, concise.

The teacher and the parents should be pleased with such skill.

bravo

Doreen said...

I really enjoyed reading the kids' comments. I have found, with my own children and in trying to encourage girls to join my FLL team, that many (most?) girls these days perceive Lego as a "boy's" toy and so they are automatically turned off of Mindstorms. Even the girls who are admittedly interested in science, are not that interested in Mindstorms because they look at it and see "bionicle" in their mind.

I tend to think that Lego has done this (limiting their market) to themselves with the prominence of the Bionicles and Star Wars and other model kits. I adored my Lego when I was growing up, but it was just plain building Lego that all kids played with.

To encourage girls to partipate in my robotics club, I have to overcome their preconceptions about Lego, not their preconceptions about science.

Doreen

Fay Rhodes said...

You make an excellent point, Doreen. Do you have any ideas about how LEGO might help you overcome those preconceptions?

Kirk B. said...

Why just use LEGO to encourage girls to get into science, but why not use LEGO to encourage girls into something more general like the combined fields of art and science? There is too much division among art and science, and why can't they be combined? It is interesting that there is no word for this combination (I may be wrong, but the closest word is design). Usually art and science are kept separate. I am an engineer, and seeing this is disappointing. DaVinci was both an artist and scientist together. That combination is better than them being individualized, as they compliment each other.

Such a combination will help students with artistic interests to become more interested in science, and vice versa. Hence, if a girl likes art, she would also be exposed to the science, and may like it. I do not think LEGO can be used singled out, but in conjunction with other materials as paper, pipe cleaners, etc. Cricket sets
do just this, and I think that the LEGO used in this context is not considered to be for boys only. A lot of the Cricket creations
use art and science. Teachers using LEGO and robotics in the classroom should take a similar approach, if they would like more girls to be interested and involved.

Look at the Wellesley College “Robotics Design Studio” course’s 2007 gallery of projects; it seems that all of these creations were made by female students. This course applies science and art together using LEGO and other materials.

Kirk B. said...

Fay,

I just asked my wife, and she says that the LEGO Co. showing advertisements with girls AND boys building with LEGO together could help over come preconceptions of LEGO being only a "boy's toy".

Fay Rhodes said...

Kirk, I agree wholeheartedly with you---and your wife. There's so many great things you can do with the NXT that isn't pure science. (I live near Wellesley and intend to go see their final presentation sometime.) It would just be nice if LEGO gave some thought to presenting it more inclusively.

One thing LEGO should NOT do is they should not create a "girly" version of anything. To be fair, right now, Mindstorms Education pages do have girls pictured, but it took some digging for me to find those. The retail advertising and the current Brickmaster Magazine are laden with testosterone. In the magazine, the themes are all dark...sinister. Frankly, I wouldn't buy that for my three sons, so their marketing is counter-productive with this parent---and with any other parent who objects to the violent and sinister nature of so many games and television programs these days.

Interesting that you should mention DaVinci,as sometime soon Apress will be releasing a book by Matthias Paul Scholtz full of NXT models based on DaVinci's work. I'm sure Matthias would love to tell you more about it!

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