Goldie Blox

December 23, 2013

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This post was brought to you by American Express. Debbie is just one Member of the American Express #PassionProject. See all of the inspiring stories here.
By Gabrielle.

I’m so excited to tell you about Goldie Blox today! Goldie Blox is a new toy — an engineering toy — created with young girls in mind. And the story behind the blox is one of the American Express Passion Projects — supporting a new generation of makers, creators and mold-breakers. Girls are far, far less likely to consider engineering as a potential career, and Debbie Sterling, an Stanford engineer herself, wanted to do something about that.

I got in touch with Debbie Sterling, Founder & CEO of GoldieBlox, to learn more about her creation, and she was kind enough to go back and forth with me on some Q & A.

Q. Was there a specific moment or circumstance when the idea for GoldieBlox came to you?

A. When I was going through the engineering program at Stanford, the lack of other women in my classes was very apparent. After graduating, I kept coming back to the notion of trying to narrow this gender gap. At a brunch with girlfriends, we discussed this, and it occurred to me that it starts at a very young age, when girls are playing with toys. After taking a walk through my local toy store, it was obvious that girls are inundated with pink princesses and pop stars as kids, but not with many construction sets or STEM-related toys. Although there’s nothing wrong with pink or princesses, I created GoldieBlox simply to offer more options for girls, and to show them they can be princesses who build their own castles.

Q. What was the biggest challenge you faced between thinking of the idea and putting a product on the store shelf?

A. After coming up with the idea for GoldieBlox, I visited the New York Toy Fair to share my idea with toy industry buyers. I was immediately challenged by people who said “Engineering toys for girls don’t sell, you can’t fight nature.” I decided that girls deserved more than this outdated idea, and chose to crowd fund GoldieBlox on Kickstarter.

Q. Did the process of creating this new thing ever get so challenging that you wanted to give up? And if yes, what did you do to overcome that?

A. Bringing GoldieBlox to life has been unbelievably challenging, almost every day. There are definitely days that its hard to keep going, but I do my best to take a step back in all of the craziness and realize how far we’ve come. We constantly remind ourselves that the mission is greater than the company, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by such a great group of engineers, creatives, and other rock stars who keep me going every day.

Q. I’m sure you’ve seen many really cool things built with GoldieBlox — does any particular creation stand out to you? Or, would you share a few of your favorites?

A. We absolutely love to see girls free-build with GoldieBlox once they’ve finished the narrative portion of a set. We created an online “Playground” so that GoldieBlox fans can easily upload and share their creations. One that sticks out in my mind is “The Flipper Ripper” by Lilah Ober. Lilah used GoldieBlox Spinning Machine parts plus things she found around her house to create a contraption, and even show some story development in the process (Flavio has an audience for his stunt!). A true Goldie masterpiece! You can find our Playground here.

Of course another favorite is the Princess Machine we made as part of a viral video recently, which inspired kids all over the world to build and share their own backyard machines. We are still getting emails almost every day!

Q. When you imagine the future, and picture engineering + girls, what is your ideal picture?

A. My ideal picture of the engineering field in the future is, of course, to approach equal female representation. I know that as a country we are just beginning to address closing this gap, but since engineering has one of the fastest growing job rates in the country, it’s essential that we increase the female interest and perspective in building, creating and inventing things that shape our world.

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Want to know more? Definitely check out Debbie’s Passion Project video below. What do you think? Inspiring, no? Have any of you created something with Goldie Blox yet? I’d love to hear what your kids think of it! And if you want your own Goldie Blox set, you can find them here.

This post was brought to you by American Express. Debbie is just one Member of the American Express PassionProject. See all of the inspiring stories here.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maggie December 23, 2013 at 9:16 am

I was part of the early kickstarter campaign for GoldieBlox and I’m so glad to see the success it is receiving. Way to go!

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2 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

It’s always fun to feel like you’re in on the ground floor of something new. I’m such a kickstarter fan!

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3 Meaghan December 23, 2013 at 10:08 am

The little girl I babysit for had “early Christmas” with the grandparents and got this toy this weekend! That’s what she was playing with when I went over to their house yesterday! A big hit!

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4 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:18 am

Yay! So glad she likes it.

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5 Becki December 23, 2013 at 10:42 am

Just watched the playground videos with my 9-year-old daughter. She thinks this looks amazing and wants to get one.

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6 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:19 am

Totally! I can only imagine how many rube goldberg machines have been made (or attempted) by kids since that video launched.

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7 Linda K December 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

I will preface my comments by stating that my daughter will be receiving Goldie Blox from her grandmother for Christmas. Full disclosure.

But I am pretty disheartened by how short the product falls in comparison to the rhetoric. The packaging fits in perfectly with the “pink aisle” that the product claims to be disrupting. Moreover, while I can accept the premise that a narrative-based approach to encouraging girls’ interest in engineering is effective, I just about fell over when I found out that the story accompnaying the toy involves a – wait for it – princess pagent/competition. Not a soccer match, a science fair, or any other sort of competition. A princess pagent.

I want this company, the mission and the inspiring cofounder to succeed. But I don’t like that slick marketing is masking what I see as substantive shortcomings in a product that has oh so much potential.

I also hope that my daughter enjoys the toys as much as she enjoys her (non-pink) lego sets. We’ll see.

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8 Jessica December 23, 2013 at 11:56 am

As a mother of two girls, I appreciate the effort to engage girls in science and engineering pursuits, but I bristled at the pink, girly packaging and story theme as well. It reminds me of a Lego set that my daughter’s grandparents bought for her that allows her to build cupcakes and serve them on a pink tray. I question whether we are truly doing girls a service by couching any learning activity in the same old themes. My daughters love to build, explore with materials, and experiment – and there is not a pink block or pageant dress in sight. I wish the creator of Goldie Blox much success, but will not be purchasing this product for my children.

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9 Ali December 23, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Yes, I agree. Buy your girls gender neutral STEM toys, including K’Nex or discovery toys. This is just more of the same. Disappointing.

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10 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:25 am

I hear you, Ali. Since our oldest child is a boy, and we loved buying building toys, our girls have always had access to gender neutral STEM toys. But I think that’s not the case for many families. The “gender neutral” toys don’t always feel gender neutral — because most are packaged with boys in mind and marketed on the “boy” aisles, so there are lots of people who don’t even encounter these toys or know they are an option.

It was my understanding that Goldie Blox was attempting to “disrupt” the pink aisle by creating a STEM toy that would appeal to girls who are in their “pink phase”, and aren’t drawn to the “gender neutral” STEM toys. I know not every girl goes through a pink phase, but it is very common. At our house, Maude and Olive both went through one, Betty just finished hers up last year, and June is right in the middle of one.

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11 Sharon December 23, 2013 at 2:51 pm

So much fun. My girls are getting Goldie Blox for Christmas and I am super excited to engage them in constructive yet feminine play. Hooray for Goldie Blox. Such a lovely step in the right direction.

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12 LP December 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm

We purchased and returned The Goldie Blox for our daughter. Like many others, they appealed to us at first, but there is room for lots of improvement. The actual design is poor. The lever handle that turns the spools is weak and readily pops off. How annoying. My husband and I played with it for a while (it was displayed at the store) and my husband said it didn’t really do much and the story is wimpy.
Great idea, but ample room for growth and change.

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13 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:29 am

“Great idea, but ample room for growth and change.”

I’m sure that’s true! I think bringing a new product to market must be crazy challenging. I imagine that if Goldie Blox takes hold enough to keep growing, that there will be many changes and improvements with every year.

I confess, I haven’t actually seen a Goldie Blox in person (and I don’t work for Goldie Blox in any way), but I’m totally inspired by the founder’s story. I love people that see a problem and try to fix it.

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14 Ali December 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I think this product is insulting, fr

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15 Ali December 23, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Sorry, that didn’t submit. I won’t buy this you because it insults girls’ intelligence, from the packaging to the story lines. Girls would be better served by gender neutral toys, like K’Nex, tinker toys, or discovery kids sets. Too bad, very disappointing coming from a STEM grad.

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16 Ali December 23, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I think this product is insulting from the packaging to the princess/pageant story lines. It’s really too bad. Girls would be better served with gender neutral toys, like K’Nex or discovery toys. I won’t be buying this.

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17 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:32 am

I may not be in the best position to respond because I haven’t actually tried this toy with my kids, but I disagree with the idea that it’s insulting.

While girls may be “better served with gender neutral toys”, the fact is that many parents have tried introducing those toys to their daughters only to see the daughters reject them and reach for something pink. From what I understand, this product doesn’t try to fight against the pink! pink! pink! phase, and instead works with it.

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18 Demoree December 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I think it’s awesome that Debbie had enough passion to see this through! It seems like a great idea.

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19 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:34 am

I’m inspired by her passion as well. Trying to get shelf space on the toy aisle has to be crazy hard!

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20 Liz Moss December 24, 2013 at 11:02 am

I think that those that find the product insulting are missing the point. For some girls and better yet for society, you can’t jump from point A to point D in one swoop. Baby steps people. Perhaps the pink packaging or the story gets one more girl to try it out or take up science or math. Isn’t that enough?

I have two girls and as much as I hate to say it, the princess storyline and the girly packaging will draw them in. But then, they get to create their own stories. And if you look at the creations in the playground, there are spinners, and hammers that smash. The viral video shows the girls riding scooters and using tea sets. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t the girls enjoy a princess storyline and then turn around build a machine that flings marshmallows at the ceiling?

I think those that find this insulting sell our girls too short. They have the imagination to dream up whatever they want regardless of the color or the story. So perhaps, you are being insulting by thinking so little of our next generation.

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21 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:35 am

“I have two girls and as much as I hate to say it, the princess storyline and the girly packaging will draw them in.”

Right. I think that’s true for many, many families. Yes, a parent can introduce a “gender neutral” STEM toy to their girlie daughter, but to the daughter, the toy won’t feel “gender neutral”, and she won’t be drawn in.

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22 Jessica December 25, 2013 at 9:19 pm

I’m surprised by the negative comments, too, but to be totally honest, that was absolutely my reaction to this toy as well – “oh great, grandma fell for the marketing campaign…”

I have a 5 yo girl and now, a goldieblox, and I am totally underwhelmed. And just waiting for the tiny and specific parts to get lost so the bits that remain are basically useless. In the meantime, my daughter has been doing incredibly creative things with magnatiles and Legos for a few years already (along with all of her friends too! She is certainly not unique). I hope the next iteration of goldieblox focuses less on narrative-directed building and more on creative exploration.

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23 Design Mom December 30, 2013 at 11:41 am

I appreciate your criticisms of the product (small pieces, underwhelming, etc). more than the “it’s insulting” response. Again, I haven’t actually seen the product in person, but I can imagine these same criticisms in response to any new toy. I think it probably takes some time, and a few iterations, to get it really right.

I remember watching the first season of Parks & Rec and it was pretty ho-hum, but by season 2, they had found their groove and it was one of my favorite shows. I imagine the process could be similar for a new toy.

Honestly, I’m just impressed that the Goldie Blox founder is trying to make a measurable difference in getting girls involved in STEM activities. So inspiring!

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24 Alex December 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I have to say that I love the premise behind this game and we need more products like this for girls in the mainstream toy market. However, I have to agree that after excitedly purchasing for my daughter we we both underwhelmed too. It simply doesn’t work well. Parts fall off, it doesn’t rotate or spin well. My daughter just gets frustrated when she builds things because it isn’t constructed well. Such a shame it’s a total flop for us.

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