Category: girls and STEM

Learning with Robots—not as teachers, though

We recently came across Alicia Gibb, a role model for women in technology — she hacks cakes (pictures below) to make them noisy and flashing. But she’s also made Pathosbot, a roller skating robot, shown above.

Alicia Gibb appeared in a news story about two sisters who are developing the Pi-Bot, a robot-building kit aimed at schools. Building robots gave Melissa Jawaharlal the critical thinking and problem sovling skills that she used to gain an engineering degree. Now she wants to share the experience with others.

Pi-bot is currently in a kick-starter campaign (through April 10th) to get started. The sisters aim to get their robots in schools at a more affordable price than some rival offerings.

The Roberta Initiative  is an existing German effort to improve students’ learning using Robots. It aims to:

support youngsters, in particular girls, to develop a long-term interest and to be motivated to engage in information technology, technology and the natural sciences.

Through Roberta, teachers aim to deliver new knowledge, but also to have it wrapped in positive emotions about the experience–which is particularly helpful to girls. Although they don’t say explicitly, the Roberta robots look like they might be based on LEGO mindstorm. (We reported on mindstorm in our post on 8 tech learning games and projects)

And now for the CAKE HACKS:
Thank you Alicia Gibb. You go girl roboticists!

There are probably more interesting programs out there for learning with robots–let us know in the comments.

Supporting girls in STEM: 10 organizations that inspire

  1. Black girls code is a San Francisco based group aiming to empower girls of color ages 7 to 17 to innovate in the STEM fields. Their long-term goal is to increase the number of women of color in the digital space
  2. Girl Scouts has an impressive array of programs and research aimed at introducing STEM to girls through “fun with purpose.” Their report, “Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” includes a tip sheet for parents and girls.
  3. The National Girls Collaborative Project is bringing together organizations throughout the USA that are encouraging girls to head for careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Through collaboration the group hopes to maximize resources, strengthen capacity and build towards a tipping point for gender equity in STEM.
  4. Girlstart works to increas interest and engagement in STEM through innovative learning programs. Girlstart emphasizes curiosity and creativity.
  5. Million Women Mentors is a campaign to increase the number of women mentors from STEM for girls interested in these fields.Research shows that having successful female role models helps break down stereotypes about girls not performing well in STEM subjects.
  6. Anita Borg Institute focuses on supporting women in computing, helping them grow their careers and find their female peers
  7. STEMettes. This UK-based organization, launched in February 2013, is “showing the next generation that girls do Science too.” They host events, such as a girls hack-a-thon, and produce a news blog featuring women in STEM.
  8. WISE (women in science and engineering) promotes female talent in STEM subject from “the classroom to the boardroom.”
  9. Engineer Girl (National Academy of Engineering) is designed to highlight for girls the exciting aspects of engineering as a career. The website provides stories and information about women in engineering.
  10. Rails Girls, taking its name from programming language Ruby and a web application framework known as Ruby on Rails, is a group that provides tools and a community to help women and girls understand technology and build their ideas.

These are few groups that we know about. Do you have any to add? Let us know it the comments.

8 tech learning games and projects

Are you looking for creative, hands-on ways to engage your kids with design and technology? Ranging from inexpensive iPad apps to more pricey kits, here are 8 projects to try.

1.    littleBits are LEGO™ – like bricks that are “wired” so kids can easily build simple circuits for basic functions such as light, sound, sensing, or motor operation. The bricks, which are color coded and snap together with magnets, have tiny circuit-boards making it possible to create fairly sophisticated electronics in an intuitive way.

boxes of littleBits
Read a review from a family with children.


GoldieBlox Toy2.    GoldieBlox aim to get girls building by combining a story book with a set of construction blocks. They say, “Girls have strong verbal skills. They love stories and characters. They aren’t as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why. GoldieBlox stories replace the 1-2-3 instruction manual and provide narrative-based building, centered around a role model character who solves problems by building machines.”

3.    Big Shot is a build-it-yourself digital camera in a kit that you and the kids assemble and then use as a regular digital camera. A big goal of the company is to “draw young minds to science and engineering,” particularly young people in underserved communities.

bigshot camera

4.    3D printer: There are many, many 3D printers on the market, some you can get as a kit of parts to assemble yourself, others are assembled out of the box. Two that have kids in mind are Cube 3D and ultimaker. Read how Kai Falkenberg’s kindergartner can 3D print.

In addition, according to makezine, Hasbro has teamed up with a 3D printing company to bring out a “toy” 3D printer that involves playdoh.

5.    Electronic playdough: Speaking of playdough, it’s quite easy to create circuits from playdough by making salty, conductive dough and sugary, insulating dough and using these doughs to string together a battery and components such as lights or sensors. Instruction available over at Squishy Circuits.

playdough circuits

6.    Mindstorm is LEGO’s robot-building kit that enables kids to program walking, talking robots. Using an icon-based programming interface helps kids bring their creations to life.

7.    Hopscotch is a character-based iPad programming app that lets kids write simple programs to control the characters. The programming language works by dragging and dropping small blocks of instruction into a script panel.

hopscotch ipad app


8.    Move the Turtle is an iPad app that engages kids with the basics of programming.  As with hopscotch, children use a simple interface to give a turtle instructions for moving around the screen. Read a review on Wired.


This is just a starter collection of ideas. When you’ve given some of these a try, let us know how you get on in the comments. Have ideas for other projects and kit? Please share them in the comments too.