The toy start-up Goldieblox has been in the news this week thanks to an ugly public fight over fair use and right of publicity with the Beastie Boys (they’ve since relented). But the company first gained public attention over a year ago when they first launched the Kickstarter for “an engineering toy for girls.”
Back when the crowdfunding campaign launched, I asked my daughter (then 10 years old) if she wanted to take a look at it and possibly write something about her impressions. (Reminder, she’s practicing to take over the family business, so to speak. Here’s some of her previous criticism). She took me up on the offer after a negotiation, which I’ll return to in a moment. In light of Goldieblox’s recent attention, I present my daughter’s impressions from a year ago for your consideration.
Goldieblox is an “interactive” game and book for girls created by a Stanford engineer with curly hair named Debbie Sterling. To use the set, you build what Goldie builds in the book. Then once you’re done building that you can use the materials to make your own creation.
I’m not quite sure how it works but to me it sorta just looks like you pull a ribbon and her animal friends spin. There are about three different Goldieblox sets and each one has a different theme like: a parade, a treehouse and the first one the spinning machine.
The founder made Goldieblox to get girls interested in engineering and in the video she talks about how she didn’t know what an engineer was till she was older. But she doesn’t explain what it is to the viewers and if she didn’t know for a long time how are the seven year olds watching gonna know? I mean, I didn’t know what an engineer is, and I certainly don’t know anything more after watching the video for Goldieblox.
The creator of Goldieblox is trying to raise money to make it on Kickstarter, which my daddy says is a “crowdfunding platform,” whatever that means. On the Kickstarter page you can pledge money to them and get rewards. The rewards get the better the more you pledge the prizes include: magnets, stickers, t-shirts, hoodies and so on. I liked the hoodie best. It’s gray and has screen-printed tools coming out of the pockets. But it’s only available in “adult sizes,” so what’s the point. And one of the rewards costs $10,000 and all it gets you is that Debbie will come speak at your event! It seems like Goldieblox is really for adults who want to feel good about themselves, not for kids at all.
In all I don’t really understand how a ribbon game is going to help get girls interested in engineering. But it seems fine other than that. I wouldn’t play with it though. To be honest I’m only writing this review because my daddy said he would buy me a Baby Alive if I did.
This week when the Beastie Boys send-up video appeared, I asked my daughter what she thought. Her response: “Why didn’t they just press the button on the TV to change the channel?” It’s a scathing indictment of the product’s promise. After all, using the most efficient means to change the channel is more or less what a real engineering solution looks like.
Debbie Sterling may have an engineering degree, but as my daughter observes without having the words to say it, Sterling’s real expertise is in marketing. She was a director of marketing for a jewelry company before starting Goldeiblox, and before that she was a brand strategist for a design agency. In between gigs, she made another disturbing video send-up, “I Want a Goat” (to the tune of Andy Samberg’s then-huge “I’m on a Boat”). That video has since been made private on YouTube as Sterling and Goldieblox decay into crisis-management mode.
And as for the Baby Alive, I did buy one for my daughter as I’d promised. Her primary curiosity about the doll didn’t stem from some gender-stereotyped notion of childcare instead of industry, but rather from a deep interest in how a doll could be made to pee and poop. You see, there’s engineering in dolls, too, and to pretend that girls need to be coerced into making Rube Goldberg machines to do engineering that “counts” is a disservice to boys, girls, and engineering alike.