by Sharmi Albrechtsen
As a mother of 2 daughters and a true feminist, of course, I believe that all robots and drones can be coded by women.
However, statistics show that 95 percent of robot and drone sales are to men and that very few women/girls buy or play with robots. Not surprisingly, we have a shortage of women in engineering and computer sciences.
This statistic became very real when a few years ago, I invested in a $150 robot building set for my younger daughter, Nina.
Quite frankly, she rejected it.
OK, in fact, she nodded politely, took the box, said she would play with it ‘later’ and put it in her closet, where it never saw the light of day.
This is when the idea of SmartGurlz came to me.
Reason 1: Because we have gender differences in brain development.
With regards to overall intelligence, both adult men and adult women are equal. However, when children are growing and developing, there are gender differences.
There is a lot of evidence that girls' brains give them a verbal advantage, likewise there is data showing that boys' brains favor spatial skills that make it easier for them to visualize three-dimensional objects from different angles.
This gives boys advantages in math, robotics, and coding. And when you put girls in a mixed environment with boys, many girls lose confidence and lean away because the boys seem ‘better’.
Our robot, Siggy and our SugarCoded app is made with a girls’ brain development in mind. For example, we have story based coding exercises that encourage her to be creative in ‘applied math’ while still being comfortable in her safe world of words, pictures and concepts.
Reason 2: Because Girls’ Play Patterns Involve their Strength in Verbal Communication
Child development experts say to give our daughters toys and tools to build with, but the toy industry does not provide us with products girls would WANT to play with.
SmartGurlz tries to bridge between today’s traditional girl play pattern – doll play - by coupling it with robotic technology and coding via smart devices.
We encourage them by creating a story about what they build, so that it fits into their play patterns.
In our SugarCoded app, we have stories about our doll characters. Girls can read about the life of a mechanical engineer, computer hacker, mathematician, or a chemist.
Girls with Siggy robots are coding robot dance routines, fashion shows, Oreo dunking competitions, Easter egg hunts. Really cool!
Reason 3: Because Masculine is Not Gender Neutral
Most drones and robots have characteristics of masculine military vehicles. Many are black, grey, or metal colored and include aggressive features such as small guns or even blades.
Many robots today are based on tanks and drive on tracks, so again, they have this ‘masculine military’ feel to them.
When you check out a high school robot building club, they have regular Fight Competitions, where robots fight each other.
Once my daughter and her friends had built and named their robots, they most certainly were not ready to enter it in a contest where other robots/children would break them apart or injure them.
SmartGurlz Siggy robots are self-balancing carrier vehicles – like a Google car, it has sensors and intelligence to allow it to be coded. The function is not fighting, but transport, travel, and adventure.
With a light trendy design, fashion colors, and low noise levels, the SmartGurlz Siggy tries to break the mold when we speak about ‘traditional robots’ as we put our customers – girls – at the center of our process.
Reason 4: Who says coding has to be done alone, behind a computer and in a darkish room?
SmartGurlz is trying to break the mold – by allowing kids to code without a computer. With our SugarCoded app -- coding can be done on your smartphone or tablet – inside or outside in the garden and with your friends.
At SmartGurlz workshops with BlackGirlsCode, we take over the floor and have Siggy robots and girls – laughing, running, coding, and playing.
We love this aspect of our products and believe that playing and learning – go hand in hand.