In an effort to get girls more interested in engineering, Debbie Sterling, a female engineer from Stanford University, created GoldieBlox. (Sterling raised funds for the company on Kickstarter.) This toy line features a female engineer role model named Goldie Blox, and uses storybooks to guide girls as they build different engineering models.
The first product from the toy line is Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine. This set includes a storybook and 33 pieces for building a belt drive, including a pegboard, 10 axles, five blocks, five washers, five character figures, a crank, five wheels, and ribbon. The story is all about Goldie building a spinning machine to help her dog Nacho chase his tail. On certain pages of the storybook, girls are asked to find pieces and place them on the pegboard. When they are done, they will have built a star-shaped spinning machine that really works.
The storybook also includes extra spinning machine patterns so that kids can build more spinning machines in different shapes. There is also a blank pattern so that kids can design their own. The storybook tells kids to visit goldieblox.com for more spinning machine designs, but that extra information was not available on the website at the time of this review.
We love the concept behind this toy line as a way to make engineering accessible and engaging for young girls. In the U.S., only 10 percent of engineers are female, and a toy like this is designed to get girls interested in engineering at a younger age so that hopefully the percentage of female engineers goes up.
However, the toy itself could use some tweaking. The extra patterns in the storybook are fairly simple. We wish that there were patterns at multiple difficulty levels to keep kids challenged as they progressed through building the spinning machines.
Also, this toy is supposed to show girls how to build a belt drive, but nowhere in the instruction booklet does it say what a belt drive is or tell what it's used for, aside from making character figures spin around. We wish the storybook would have added information about a belt drive's real-world applications to help girls better understand what they were building and how it could be used outside of the toy. That might really get the wheels spinning in a child's head.
Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine is for ages 4–9. For kids on the younger end of that age range, parental participation is required, especially for reading the story.
Some of the instructions in the storybook were confusing. At the beginning, the book asks kids to place an axle into the pegboard. But then it seems that the book forgets it had kids do this because it ignores that axle and later tells kids to get another one in order to complete a building project.
The instructions for the extra patterns are picture instructions, which are pretty easy to follow. However, they don't really tell kids where to start, and younger kids might need a little more prompting and help from parents as they begin the building process.
Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine is available in Toys "R" Us stores and specialty toy stores nationwide.
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