When Jennifer Kessler, Alice Brooks, and Bettina Chen were first-year masters students at Stanford, they couldn’t help but notice a striking absence of women in their math and science classes. Wanting to inspire an enthusiasm for the hard sciences in younger generations of girls, the women created Roominate, a buildable toy dollhouse that teaches kids about subjects like architecture and engineering, their website reports.
Roominate is a stackable set of dollhouse rooms, made for girls ages 6-10. Each set includes build-your-own furniture, circuit boards, color-coded wires and a mini-motor to operate lights, fans and buzzers. Once girls decide on an overall structure for their houses, they can choose to wire each room for light or electronics, take apart and reassemble the customizable furniture, and even change the wallpaper as they see fit.
As Alice Brooks explained to the New York Times, “…we could trace the initial spark for our interest in math and science to the toys that we played with.” (Brooks’ bio says as a child, she received a saw from her father in lieu of the Barbie she requested.)
The core idea behind Roominate is that math, science and engineering are ways of thinking, which can be made familiar to children through early exposure in the form of hands-on play. According to Roominate’s website, the toy uses creativity to teach girls circuitry, spatial perception, planning, and critical thinking. It even promotes green living, as its purposely short-lived battery encourages energy conservation.
Still in its early stages, Roominate began a Kickstarter fund in June of this year. Good.is reports the fund reached its goal of $25,000 within five days. By the time funding was closed, it raised almost $86,000. During that time, 1,300 units were sold to Kickstarter backers, and the current wait list is ever-expanding. Due to market demand, the women have outsourced manufacturing to begin mass-production, in the hopes of selling Roominate directly from their website around November of this year. The Times reports that units will market for $65 each.
Though certainly boys and girls can enjoy toys like this, the need for girl-centered science promotion is obvious: according to Roominate’s site, the National Science Foundation finds that only 15 percent of female college freshmen plan to major in a science-related subject, and less than 11 percent of current engineers are women.
Do you think more girl-targeted science toys will help young women enter the hard sciences later in life? Would you buy it for your children? Let us know in the Comments.