The Superhero Cyborgs program, run by KIDmob and Autodesk, invited 10-year old Jordan to design and build her prosthetic super hero arm.
“The program connects children with upper-limb differences with professional engineers so that they can design and create their own custom-made prosthetics that do, well, whatever the kids want them to do.”
In the case of Jordan, that arm was a glitter cannon. Read more at Fast Company.
Mr. Potato Head by Rodrigo Tejeda
Over on Forbes, Kim Elsesser reports on a new effort by the White House to tackle gender stereo-typing in the media and in toys. She highlights that as long as the media and toys constantly tell girls to focus on their appearance first, their broader competence will suffer. Elsesser notes the difference between playing with Barbie and playing with Mr. Potato Head:
In one of my favorite studies, 4- to 7-year-old girls were randomly assigned to play with either a Barbie doll or a Potato Head toy for five minutes. It’s hard to believe such short exposure to any toy could have an impact on a child, but after playing with the assigned toy, the children were asked about their career aspirations. Playing with Barbie (for only five minutes!) actually limited the careers that these girls felt they could attain. Playing with the Potato Head had no such effect. So, toys and media are clearly important when it comes to career.
The study concludes that the Barbie, being fashion focused and sexualised, guides girls to focus on their appearance. Elesser comments, “Study after study shows that when women evaluate themselves based on their appearance there are negative consequences. Women who do this perceive themselves as less competent and even perform worse on objective tests.”
Here at Kids Future Press, where our new book features a mother who is an inventor and a daughter who is a great skateboarder, we feel that the stories children read can also contribute by portraying women and girls in STEM and other roles that don’t focus on a female appearance.
I recently came across Nancy B’s Science Club, a spin off of Nancy B’s science toys by Educational Insights. The toys have an aesthetic that will appeal to girls and possibly won’t repel boys entirely.
Refreshingly, Nancy B is a real person—Nancy Balter, a former science teacher who wants to encourage girls in the sciences (read an interview on BoardroomMum here). According to Educational Insights Nancy B’s tools and activity journals are “recommended by female scientists” and I believe it!
Halloween is around the corner, and this year 3D printing offers a way to tie some design and engineering to costumes and decorations.
Cubify is offering 3D printing patterns that are free to download. Along with pumpkin accessories, you can choose masks, mustaches and other spooky decorations. Even better, have a look at these patterns for inspiration and then use one of the simple software programs — such as 123D Design (free from Autodesk), Sculptris (free from Pixologic), or Doodle3D (requires WiFi box), or Makers Empire (free app to download)– to create your own designs.
And now you can choose from a number of options assuming that, like most people, you don’t have a 3D printer. Options include:
The UPS store, which has rolled out 3D printing services at a number of stores in the US
A few public libraries and many schools
3D printing services such as Sculpteo, i.materialize, and Shapeways
On the subject of costumes, have a look at an amazing suit one woman created through 3D printing.
It’s a Varia Suit worn by the character Samus Aran in the video game series Metroid. But even if you’re like me and you’ve never heard of the game, it’s still impressive, and all the more inspiring when a woman takes on a project like this (if she is a woman…she’s a bit mysterious). This article (at 3Dprint.com) tells more of the story.