Coding Robots For Girls Now Exist, And They’re Multicultural

Toys that help girls learn to code
Source: Image: SmartGurlz™

May 25 2017, Published 3:15 a.m. ET

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Girls start believing men are smarter than women as early as age six.

A study published by the Science Journal suggests that girls are convinced men are smarter before grade school, and can be less motivated to pursue ambitious careers later on in life. Fortunately, Robotics startup SmartGurlz™ is making sure girls have access to coding by the time they’re in kindergarten.

SmartGurlz™ is a start-up looking to get more girls coding at a younger age with their toys and mobile apps. SmartGurlz™ is a line of action dolls and robots that connects with mobile apps to teach girls how to code. The SmartGurlz™ package comes with a doll and a “Siggy” scooter, which connects to iPhones and tablets over the internet and teaches girls about technology through fun games and challenges.

We’re well aware of the proven benefits of increasing diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, such as a stronger workforce, financial gains and a product that reflects the consumer base. But just by reducing the female attrition in these fields by 25%, would add more than 200,000 candidates to the job pool. Most girls aren’t adequately exposed to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs until they’re in college – adding to the reasons why we don’t see many women pursuing careers in these fields.

Sharmi Albrechtsen decided to launch the company after being frustrated with the lack of educational toys for her daughter.

“We’re committed to helping more young girls develop an interest in STEM subjects and move from being solely consumers of technology, into creators and code writers. Our partnership with BlackGirlsCode for this ground-breaking workshop is a big step in the right direction,” said Albrechtsen in an emailed statement to Black Enterprise.

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toys that help girls get into STEM
Source: Image: SmartGurlz™

Albrechtsen isn’t just a concerned mom, she holds an MBA from Copenhagen Business School and has worked for over a decade promoting education within consumer health. She’s also a successful blogger and author of A Piece of Danish Happiness. Albrechtsen didn’t found the startup alone, she also had help from mechanical engineer Jesper Nissen and electronics whiz Thomas Kølbæk Jespersen.

So how does it work?

The toys work collaboratively with the SugarCoded mobile apps available on iPhone and tablets. SugarCoded is the official free driving application for SmartGurlz™ Siggy robots and mini-drones.

Once the app is downloaded on your device of choice, all you have to do is:

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  1. Add batteries to the Siggy
  2. Attach the action doll and sit upright – the Siggy will not move unless the doll is attached
  3. Open the SugarCoded app and connect your toy
  4. Choose an activity from Ebooks, free play, missions, learning and more!

The startup makes an entire line of multi-cultural dolls each with a unique backstory related to STEM, that girls can choose to pair with their Siggy. There’s a mechanic, math genius, hacker, chemistry star and creative artist, so no matter what interests a girl there is a doll just like her.

Educational toys for girls in STEM
Source: Image: SmartGurlz™
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What’s unique about SmartGurlz™ is that not only is it the first line of coding robots for girls, but it also focuses on developing spatial reasoning in kids. According to the SmartGurlz team, “toys currently created for girls often lag behind in the development of spatial skills, hands-on problem-solving skills, and confidence with technology.”

SmartGurlz™ has partnered with BlackGirlsCode to give girls hands-on experience exploring the possibilities with code. The toys were tested out by young girls at a coding workshop held at Google headquarters in New York City in early April. The company has also been nominated for the top trend toy of 2017 by Spielwarenmesse – the largest international trade fair for toys. It’s also been featured in BBC, Forbes, TechCrunch and more.

In an interview with the Huffington post, Albrechtsen explains the importance of getting girls interested in technology at a young age, “We live in a technological world and yet all technology is currently being built by men. Opportunities for innovation are missed as a result, since women are left out as creators but also consumers. Last year 1 million consumer drones were sold in the U.S., less than .5 percent were for girls/women.”

“This means, 50 percent of the population is cut out from using a technology that could potentially revolutionize many industries including transportation, farming, medicine, logistics and cartography,” said Albrechtsen.

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