When the White House devotes an entire section of its website to a cause, you know it's a big deal. The underrepresentation of women in STEM fields stems (ahem) from a variety of sources, but almost everyone agrees that the STEM gender gap starts early. Girls are told from the very beginning of their education that science and math are for boys — but that's where Jewelbots, the programmable friendship bracelets designed to get girls into coding, come in.
The charm bracelet is a staple of almost every girl's childhood. Inside the average-looking flower charm on each Jewelbot, however, lies the difference separating these bracelets from the jewelry of your youth. According to Fast Company, the plastic charms on Jewelbots house small, flat disks that contain LEDs and vibrating motors. These charms also have the ability to communicate with each other when they're within Bluetooth range of each other.
It's very cool stuff — but what are Jewelbots supposed to do, exactly? That's up to the girls who use them. According to the Kickstarter page, girls can use "basic engineering logic... [to] program their Jewelbots to do just about anything they — and their besties-turned-collaborators — dream up." According to cofounder Brooke Moreland, this includes anything from simple social media notifications to Morse code-like secret languages comprised of vibration and light sequences. Like the open world of the video game Minecraft, Moreland sees Jewelbots as a way for girls to create their own methods of communication with their peers.
"This whole thing has been a quest to find something that girls love so much, and give them the opportunity to customize it if they want to... The hypothesis is, they’ll teach themselves and create community around it," she told Fast Company.
It's not a bad idea; as a former female child, I can personally attest to how much that particular demographic adores secret languages/handshakes/eye twitches. I'm clearly not the only one who thinks so, either. In the week that the Kickstarter page has been live, Jewelbots has blazed past its goal of $30,000 to almost $80,000 as of press time. According to the page, the bracelets are scheduled to ship in March of next year. (You can donate to the campaign here.)
Women are awarded a measly 18 percent of computer science degrees, and one study indicated that although girls frequently receive better grades in physics, they tend to drop the subject more frequently. As a result, it's a good thing Jewelbots is set to join an increasingly diverse list of toys designed to get girls interested in STEM fields. Check out these other options, too:
Like Goldieblox, iBesties are dedicated to providing empowering alternatives to girls who are interested in options beyond the "pink aisle." With six iBesties, from a "coding queen" to a "business boss," there are plenty of toys for girls to choose from.
3. Miss Possible
Make-believe is great, if I may say so myself, but what about real women in STEM fields? With Miss Possible, girls can play with all sorts of female leaders and scientists from history. Who wouldn't want to play with an Ada Lovelace action figure?
Designed to "inspire the next generation of engineers," Roominate is an engineering toy that makes science fun with working circuits, spinning fans, and, of course, lots of bright colors. What else could a girl want?