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September 20, 2013

Female Mathletes Are Finishing Strong

Posted by Aruna C. Newton (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:18 AM

Inspiring the next generation of female engineers: Debbie Sterling at TEDxPSU [Source:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEeTLopLkEo]

Girls. And their education is a subject close to my heart. That's one of the reasons I also closely follow the activities of Infosys Foundation.

Part of the Infosys Foundation's mission is education. We've helped teach thousands of children across India. In the West we're active in a number of charitable efforts as well, not the least of which is sponsoring an entire class of students enrolled in the YWCA of Greater Atlanta's "Teen Girls in Technology" program (TGI Tech).

TGI Tech is an innovative program for girls in middle and high school that helps cultivate interest and competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By using real-world examples, critical thinking, and problem solving, the program helps girls to develop confidence in subjects long recognized as being geared toward boys.

When girls get a solid grounding in science and technology, they grow up with skills that are sure to pump life into any economy - Western or emerging. What's really inspiring are the alternate ways to encourage young girls to set out on this path. One of the most fascinating ways to create opportunities in science and technology is through play. Meet Debbie Sterling, the inventor of the GoldieBlox toy. Her creation is flying off the shelves at major retailers like Toys 'R' Us.

The way Sterling set out to create this wildly successful toy is a lesson in creative disruption. Sterling noticed a couple things about the engineering and technology world: Men dominate the field and bring more technical knowledge to the table. Plus, engineering can be a lot more creative than she'd originally thought. With that, she set about solving a problem - not to invent a toy. The issue for her was: Why did boys love building blocks like Legos but girls didn't have a similar toy to nudge them into the STEM fields at an early age? The reason, she deduced, was that girls enjoy placing problems - even mathematical ones - into the context of a narrative. (She was doing just that as she began to invent GoldieBlox.) Because the toy helps address the unique cognitive skills of girls, she felt she had something special to introduce to the market.

The toy focuses on a girl engineer and her friends who have a construction set at their disposal. Therein lies a story - whatever story a little girl wants to run with. And they've been running: As of last month, Sterling has sold 50,000 sets, ensuring a lot more girls will discover their talents for STEM subjects and won't be afraid to study them on undergraduate and graduate levels in the near future.

Well, seems like it's a great time to cheer - "Go girls, go!"

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