Inspiration: Tackling Science and Medicine

Amma Asare can remember when her interest in biology was first piqued: as a high school student, she took part in a summer science program where participants were taken to a cadaver lab to watch medical students perform dissections.

“[I] got to see the inside of the human body for the first time,” she said. “I thought [it] was super interesting, and there’s so much going on that we don’t know about. I started to get excited about science and medicine at that time.”

Amma went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where she landed a work study job in a biology lab. The PI [principal investigator] of her lab, whom she describes as “really young and enthusiastic,” encouraged her to take some biology courses.

“I started taking bio and I really loved it,” reflects Asare. “I thought it was a really fun way to think about how we interact with the world.” She declared a major in biology, and after she finished her undergraduate studies “decided to go back to graduate school and do both a medical degree and a PhD because [she] loved both science and medicine.”

Asare is now pursuing her MD/PhD at the Rockefeller University. Her doctoral research is focused on skin cells, which she explains “are a really great model” for how human organs “grow from a single cell all the way up to a person that’s fully functional.” Studying skin cells is a good way “to understand how organs form and how this formation can go wrong and lead to different diseases like cancer or other skin disorders.”

Being a woman has “definitely” made an impact on Asare’s experience in the scientist. She recalls a college sociology course she took, in which her professor asked who amongst the students had thought about how their decision to have children or not would affect their future career. “A bunch of people raised their hands, and when you looked around, it was only the women,” says Asare. For Asare, “being a woman is an extremely important part of [who I am] but I see it as a positive factor, a motivating factor.”

When asked what advice she would give to girls interested in STEM, she emphasizes the importance of trying new things. “Sometimes it feels like such a barrier to try something that maybe your friends aren’t doing or that seems very different.”

But, she stresses, “especially when you’re younger, nothing can be lost by just trying something. If you try something and you don’t like it, try something new. Just go to something for a day that you would never otherwise try—in the sciences and outside of the sciences. You don’t know what you’ll like, you don’t even know what you’ll be good at”

Parents can play a role in supporting their daughter’s interest in STEM by helping them explore STEM options outside “the traditional professions like doctor, lawyer, nurse.” Asare cites “the huge range of things people can do, from physician’s assistant to nuclear medicine technician to engineer,” which many kids “don’t know about.”

Lastly, she recommends that parents encourage their children to persevere with their scientific interests even if it doesn’t come easy at first. “It’s important to get encouragement to know that you don’t have to be perfect at everything to be good at it,” she says.

-- Caroline Neel

 

Inspiration: The New Face of Physics

Physicist Alexa Staley (c) Photo by Kai Staats

Physicist Alexa Staley (c) Photo by Kai Staats

Here’s a fun fact about physics: “The gravity that we feel towards earth is not a force, but is earth curving spacetime and us following the curvature,” explains Dr. Alexa Staley, who recently received her PhD in Physics from Columbia. A less fun fact about physics? Although women earn 53% of doctoral degrees across the board, they earn only 39% of the PhDs awarded in STEM disciplines, and in Physics, they earn a mere 20%. That’s why we were so excited to sit down with Dr. Staley and hear more about her story.


Growing up, Alexa Staley “didn’t really like Barbie,” preferring to spend her time playing with toy cars and building roads out of blocks. She attended an all-girls school, which she says “had a huge impact on me. We gained so much confidence, and learned to be active in the
classroom.”  She recalls that in college, an advisor told her that in his higher-level courses, men and women spoke up equally, but in big intro classes, girls spoke up less. “My friends and I were never shy about raising [our] hand in class, and I attribute that to going to an all-girls school,” said Staley.


But the path that led to physics, a math-heavy discipline, wasn’t a straight shot—Staley, who has a learning disability, struggled with math in elementary and middle school. Fortunately, she was able to work with several tutors, and by the time she reached high school, math was one of her stronger subjects. So in ninth grade, when physics was added to her curriculum, she tackled it with relish. “I was super excited about it,” recalls Staley. “I liked how [the] equations described the real world. Physics has the ability to answer interesting and extremely challenging questions with fundamental laws and mathematics, which I think is awesome!”


Staley credits strong mentors with encouraging her to pursue physics: “I took Intro to General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics [in college]. At the end of the semester, my professor came up to me and said, “You’re going to be a physics major.”” Staley declared the major the following year. The inspiration to continue her studies was echoed by her college advisor, who suggested she go to graduate school, and her advisors at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) lab, where she conducted the research for her Ph.D.

 Staley wrote her thesis on the Advanced LIGO gravitational wave detectors. Gravitational waves, a phenomenon predicted in 1916 by Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, are disturbances of space-time caused by energetic processes in the universe, like colliding blackholes or the collapse of a supernova. While the prediction of these waves dates back to the early twentieth century, they have never been directly observed. Staley worked for two years at the LIGO lab, where she helped get the advanced detector up and running, with the goal of being able to detect these waves for the first time in history. “I had to do a lot of different kinds of work: working with lasers and optics, learning control theory, assembling hardware—soldering!—and different work with software like modeling and automation.”

While she knows there have been instances of female physicists experiencing discrimination, Staley says that she has never felt like an outsider in the field. “I never experienced anyone telling me I don’t belong here,” says Staley. “I think that the field is very welcoming. I can see that the field of Physics is trying to encourage women.” During her summers in the LIGO lab, the undergraduate researchers were predominantly women, and she worked with a female post-doc as a mentor. Even with this positive progress, she agrees it’s important to inspire young girls to get a kick-start in STEM professions: “I think encouraging girls to be in STEM is very important.” She has gone back to the all-girls school she attended to talk to fourth graders about her profession. “They were so psyched. I want to help in any way I can."

Alexa, you inspire us!

You can learn more about gravitational waves and the LIGO lab (and catch Alexa in action) in this documentary: http://www.space.com/25489-ligo-a-passion-for-understanding-complete-film.html

--C.Neel

 

Enhancing friendship, not replacing it.

 

The cover of this week’s New York Times Magazine featured a close up
of toy idol Barbie, her blonde, blue-eyed, placidly smiling face
accompanied by the tagline, “Now I have a brain!” and in smaller
print, “Goodbye, Imaginary friends. Hello, A.I. Dolls.” The article
 detailed Mattel’s efforts to create an artificially intelligent toy, a Barbie doll that could engage in conversation with the young girls (or boys) who own her. Sarah Wufleck, who helped create Barbie’s dialogue, is quoted as “imagin[ing] a girl taking the new doll into her bedroom and closing
the door.”

As cool as it is to have a doll that can talk back, there is something unsettling about a toy marketed as a sort of replacement friend. It is reminiscent of Spike Jonze’s comedy Her, in which a shy, introverted man finds true love—in his artificially intelligent operating system, Samantha. The ever-present, always helpful and agreeable Samantha is not too far a cry from a Barbie doll that, when prompted, will tell a child, “You made friends with me right away.” But how will this translate into a child’s real experiences making new friends?

The NYT article expresses a few of these concerns: with a toy that is
programmed to ignore anything unkind a child might say to it, how will
kids learn empathy? Will a toy that never fights with you, is never moody, and never challenges your ideas help or hinder your social development? Who is to say some children won’t prefer to spend all
their time talking to Barbie behind closed bedroom doors, and not with other kids?

Unlike talking Barbie, Linkitz was designed to enhance social interaction and cooperative play in real life. As a technology toy, this sets Linkitz apart. Linkitz aren’t built to be a toy that a child plays with alone. Linkitz is a toy that responds to a child and her friends: adding color to a game of tag by lighting up when chasing someone, enhancing a game of Miss Mary Mack or Slide with lights that keep time to clapping, or sensing
when friends are nearby and lighting up to celebrate your friendship. Linkitz encourages kids to explore the world outside their bedroom doors, and gives them the tools to make that world more fun.

--Caroline Neel

(Photo "Marie Stien" by Philippe Put licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Hands-on with making electronics

What makes Linkitz different from the other kids wearables out there? Hands-on experience with making wearables from real electronic components!

Why is this important? Linkitz is designed to encourage exploration. Kids can experiment with connecting different Linkitz together to see how that changes the behavior of their toy. "Children learn best when they are encouraged to explore, interact, create, and play" [1] and Linkitz give them the opportunity for active learning. 


Our interchangeable links let kids experiment with connecting components to make all kinds of wearables!
With Linkitz, kids can:
- Make a friendship bracelet that lights up to let them know that friends are nearby.
- Make it light up in different colors for their best friend or team.
- Use it to send secret coded messages.
- Add sound effects to games and alerts.
- Use the microphone and speaker to make a walkie-talkie.
- Use the motion link to play a game like Simon(TM) or Bop It (TM).
- Learn to program!

[1] M. Thompkins, in Active learning: Making it happen in your program. In N. A. A. Brickman and L. S. Taylor (Eds.), Supporting young learners, 5–13. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

Meet Drew, Linkitz CTO

Photo Credit: Steve Cho 

Photo Credit: Steve Cho 

"Not everyone is going to go into STEM fields, but just like how you teach all kids to write, our opportunity to use computers to make our lives better shouldn't be reserved for those who do it full-time.”

Drew Macrae is an engineer and Linkitz’ Chief Technology Officer. Macrae graduated from Harvey Mudd College, where he built electronic toys for class credit, summer jobs and just for fun - but at Harvey Mudd certainly wasn’t the first time Drew thought like an engineer.

For Drew, the path to engineering involved a combination of engineering role models and toys. Growing up, he was shown engineering as both a hobby and a profession.  “Playing with small plastic robots as a kid made the notion of playing with big metal ones in high-school an attractive one. As our FIRST team began to focus on outreach, I thought a lot about the value that applying my math and science classes had for me and others. I was lucky to be involved in programs and to play with toys whose mission was to encourage engineering educations.”

Macrae’s experiences directly reflect the Linkitz philosophy: encourage children when they are young, let them explore, and you’re likely to inspire a lifelong interest in STEM. “Everyday we engage with electronics in the role of the user, but very few of us think of electronics as something we can be a part of creating. Linkitz gives girls a chance to try on that role and see if they like it.”

Toys in today's market are becoming less diverse as the expense of designing hardware encourages big companies to sell software instead. Today's powerful electronics are also limiting in the fact that they can never be changed by the user. 

The Linkitz team is challenging that.

“We had this notion that by building a modular electronics toy, kids would have an opportunity to see how the hardware they put together puts them in control of their toys. We then sought to make parts they might want and systems to demonstrate and showcase those parts.”  

Linkitz lets kids, specifically girls ages four and up, create and customize their own wearable toys- a first-of-its kind approach to introducing kids to technology and coding. 

Here's to the next generation of female tech titans! 

-

The Linkitz team has raised over $80,000 on Kickstarter, with four days left! Check out the campaign here, and connect with us on Twitter and Instagram @LinkitzToys and on Facebook! 

 

One Week to go on Kickstarter!

75 Goals Small.png

Linkitz CEO and co-founder, Lyssa Neel, talks about her inspiration for creating Linkitz, a programmable, modular wearable toy to help girls learn how to code. 

Our Kickstarter campaign is entering its last week, and we couldn't be more excited! This week, we reached 75 per cent of our goal and have continued to build momentum - we're sitting at $74, 804 from 458 backers! With seven days left in our campaign, we still need your support to bring Linkitz to girls everywhere and change the future of STEM! 

Thank you for helping us reach each and every milestone! We can't wait to see what's to come in the final stretch of our campaign! 

Media 

Linkitz co-founder and CEO Lyssa Neel was profiled by Kim Moldofsky in STEM Girl Friday, a weekly feature on her blog The Maker Mom.  Every Friday, Kim speaks with a female innovator in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Kim also moderates a monthly #STEMchat on Twitter! 

This week, Tom Emrich's We Are Wearables published this interview [also at left] with Linkitz co-founder and CEO Lyssa Neel, sponsored by Intel Canada and filmed the day Linkitz launched at the We Are Wearables event on May 5. In the clip, Lyssa shares her Linkitz journey, including how being a mom of three girls spurred the idea for a wearable that aligns with how girls learn and play. 

LInkitz also made headlines in Japan's Weekly ASCII. Thanks to Ryo Morita for the coverage, which makes us wish we spoke better Japanese. You can read the original here or see what Google Translate makes of it here.

We're also super proud of the guest post our Chief Learning Officer Chris Wallace wrote for WT VOX about how Linkitz is making #GirlsWithToys a reality. Learn more about Chris and Lisa Harun, our Chief Marketing Officer, also on the Linkitz blog. 

Thank you!

Thanks to everyone who shared our posts on social. We love seeing your tweets, hearts and likes. Seven days to go on Kickstarter - let's keep the momentum going to inspire the next generation in STEM! 

Find us on Twitter and Instagram @LinkitzToys and on Facebook! 

Meet Chris, Linkitz CLO

“With Linkitz, we're trying to make sure that every girl grows up thinking that engineering, exploration and programming are a part of who she is.”  

 

Christopher Wallace joined the Linkitz team after graduating with a Ph.D. in Classics - the study of ancient civilizations - from the University of Toronto. It may seem an unlikely transition from the outset, but as Chief Learning Officer, Chris uses his years of teaching experience and expertise in language acquisition to make Linkitz a great way to learn programming.

Growing up, Chris played with Tonka trucks and a complete kid-sized carpenter’s bench, like any little boy does. But to him, they weren’t so much toys as tools that taught confidence, creativity and problem solving. “By the time that I was five and my sister was seven, we made a doghouse for our new puppy, without any help from mom and dad.”

From front to back: sand, Chris, cement mixer, doghouse.  Strangely, that style of doghouse never caught on...

From front to back: sand, Chris, cement mixer, doghouse.  Strangely, that style of doghouse never caught on...

Did those doghouse-building skills influence his career path? Not exactly, but those tools did influence the way he thinks. “I still assume that I can make just about anything I want, if I have time.”

So why get involved in Linkitz? “When Lyssa [Neel, Linkitz CEO] told me about the idea, I knew I had to be a part of it. Something like this that works as a toy, works as a way to reach out to kids and works as medium for self expression, checked too many boxes to resist,” says Chris.  

As research shows, girls start losing interest in STEM by age eight. “It's important to get girls interested in STEM while they're young mostly because those are the years when girls, and all kids really, are starting to 'try on' and settle into social identities. Who you think you are has a lot more power to shape your life than what you're capable of doing. Anyone can be great at things like programming or math, but not if you tell yourself 'That's not who I am. I don't like those things.' That will keep you from ever trying.”

Chris and the Linkitz team want kids to see Linkitz for what it is: a way to express themselves and be creative, just like drawing and colouring. They get to decide what to build and how to put it together. “What keeps kids from programming is a language barrier between them and the machine. Our entirely pictographic programming language removes that barrier.”

And while there’s nothing specifically wrong with toys on the market today, there’s a lot of missed opportunity; there’s a need for toys that reflect how girls learn and that encourage them to explore, experiment and create. “What we don't see is a lot of electronics toys that travel and socialize. We’ve created that.”

--

We're over 75% of the way to our goal on Kickstarter with eight days to go! 

Stylish Learning

Some of you may have heard of the idea of "learning styles". Although most educators no longer believe that children are 'programmed' to fit one or more models of learner, I think all would agree that it's important to engage multiple senses.  Young children in particular learn by experiencing and by doing. Think back to when you learned how to tie your shoes or do up buttons: did the pictures in a book help? Did practice? Or both?

The Linkitz team knows that children learn best and are happiest when they're stimulated by multiple sensory inputs. That's why we've designed our links to take advantage of as many senses as we can! Let's check it out:

  • Sight. Boy oh boy, do we have this one covered! The links themselves come in multiple bright colors.  Several links use colored light to engage and communicate with users. The links are color-coded. And of course, they are all customizable with our visual programming interface.
  • Sound. We have links that use sound as both an input and an output. Some combinations of links can be used as like a musical instrument, and others encourage kids to explore the connections between sound, light and movement.
  • Touch. Linkitz feel great in your hands. Manipulative toys like Lego are one of our biggest inspirations, and our motion link is designed to appeal to kinaesthetic learners.  As we grow, we'll be adding haptic feedback links as well. Would you like to let your someone know you're thinking about him or her in a non-obtrusive way? Send a buzz!
  • Smell. What about scented link? We know how to make one! If you think this would be great, you can join our mailing list or email us and let us know.
  • Taste. We have to pass on this one. Linkitz are too big to swallow, and non-toxic, but please, don't put them in your mouth!

If you're interested in learning more about Linkitz, consider subscribing to our blog, give us a 'like' on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter! We love connecting with you!

Hello, World! Meet Lily!

 

Who is Lily Linkitz?

Linkitz knows that every little girl has at least one superpower: whether you excel at reading, writing, math, sports or if you’re a good friend at school, you’re a superhero in our books!

And every superhero needs a sidekick! Someone smart, intelligent, fun, and up for a challenge. Ready to take it to the next level!  

Welcome Lily Linkitz! Lily is your ultimate Linkitz sidekick. She knows that exploring is a great way to learn something new and to make friends.

Lily is here to inspire all our future tech titans, and to let them know that whatever they imagine, they can create!

Lily will always be nearby to lend a hand as girls explore how Linkitz works.

Say hello to Lily and the Linkitz team - we’re chatty! Click, like or Tweet @LinkitzToys or visit us on Facebook and let us know your superpower!

We cannot wait for you to see Lily’s official unveiling in our app - but you need to stay tuned!

And read about our Kickstarter here.

Meet Lily Linkitz, the ultimate Linkitz sidekick! 

Meet Lily Linkitz, the ultimate Linkitz sidekick! 

One Week on Kickstarter!

Today marks one week that Linkitz has officially been live on Kickstarter, and what a week it has been!

The Linkitz story has already resonated with 260 backers around the globe who have helped us raise over $38,000 - 40% of our total goal - to inspire the next generation of female tech titans. It has been wonderful to hear your stories, too, and how many of you wish you had a toy like Linkitz growing up, and want to see girls be part of making the future.  

In case you missed them, we’ve recapped important media coverage from throughout the week!

  1. Yesterday was a big media day for Linkitz. We were covered in Fast Company, TechRepublic and Global News. A big thanks to Michael Grothaus, Lyndsey Gilpin and Nicole Bogart for their support!

  2. Co-founder Dr. Lyssa Neel was dubbed a top Mom in STEM by John Hayden from We Are Wearables.

  3. We were named a top Kickstarter campaign by Atmel Corporation and GeekDad, as well as one of the best wearable Kickstarters by WAREABLE.

  4. Betakit featured us in their Wearable Weekly section.

  5. Linkitz was named to the Watch List by Lisa Johnston from TWICE Magazine. The Watch List is an ongoing series that covers start-ups and crowdfunding.  

  6. And Amandah Wood from Ways We Work got the ball rolling just before we launched on Kickstarter. Dr. Neel tells her about the rewards and challenges of running a startup and the tools she uses to stay productive. Thanks, Amandah!

We also had a fantastic launch event at the We Are Wearables Toronto meetup. Here are some pictures! A big thanks to Tom Emrich and the We Are Wearables team for an amazing evening!

We still have work to do to raise our total goal of $95,000, but we know that with your continued support, Linkitz will be brought to life! Thank you for all the great feedback on Twitter and Facebook (keep it coming!) and for continuing to spread the word about Linkitz!

You can find us on Twitter and Instagram @LinkitzToys, and on Facebook, and we’ll be at the Bay Area Maker Faire this weekend. Come say hi!

24 days to go!

 

Why Technology is a Superpower

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

When Linkitz co-founder Dr. Lyssa Neel was a little girl, the answers to this question ranged from invisibility, the ability to fly, and a few kids who wished they could stop bullets "like Superman."

We now live in a world where invisibility is possible, people can fly with airplanes or jetpacks, and scientist Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar, a material five times stronger than steel and a core component in bulletproof vests.

Technology made all these superpowers possible -- but that is only the beginning.

“Who knows what new and exciting superpowers are being imagined now that may someday become realized through technology?” Dr. Neel asks.“A girl’s' creativity and imagination means there are no limits to what they can dream of. Our team at Linkitz wants every girl to know that by using technology,  she has the ability to create her own superpowers, and be her own superhero.”

Linkitz aims to inspire a new generation of superheroes. Girls have the imagination, and we can't wait to see what amazing things they create with Linkitz as their tools! 

What’s your superpower? Let us know on Twitter and Instagram @LinkitzToys and on Facebook!

You can find our Kickstarter campaign here

Calling all future female tech titans: Linkitz is live on Kickstarter!

Linkitz is now on Kickstarter!

Linkitz is now on Kickstarter!

No more sleeps left! We’re shouting from the rooftops with excitement! We’re live on Kickstarter!

What We’re Doing

We’ve created a magical device that every little girl will love! Linkitz is the first-of-its kind, build your own wearable kit for girls! We are filling a major gap in today’s toy market that will inspire girls, ages four to eight, to learn how to code and encourage their creativity through collaborative play.

And it’s available today on Kickstarter! Hooray!

Why We’re Doing It

Girls lose interest in STEM as early as age eight. We want girls to know that engineering, electronics and programming are things they and their friends can use to create awesome things. By capturing their imagination early, Linkitz will inspire a lifelong interest in STEM.

Playing with Linkitz is all about creativity and exploration. As kids assemble links in different combinations, they’ll unleash the power of Linkitz, and using the programming interface they can create customized actions and effects. We can’t wait to see what girls will build with wearable technology designed just for them!

Our Goal

We need to raise  $95,000 to bring Linkitz to market in December 2015! Our Kickstarter funds will help us complete production tooling and our app to give your child a toy she’ll really love!

From now until June 5, 2015, we’re calling on you to help us spread the love about Linkitz and inspire the next generation of tech-minded girls.

You can find our Kickstarter campaign page here. We’d also love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Like, share, support -- every bit counts!

THANK YOU!

 

Gearing up for Kickstarter at Linkitz HQ

 

We’re only four days away from our Kickstarter launch! On May 5, 2015, we’re setting out to change the way girls think about STEM and fuel their interest in coding through imaginative exploration with Linkitz.

Our team is excited to show you how we’ve designed Linkitz to be both creative and collaborative, whether it’s used to make a new toy, send secret messages to a friend, or play games based on proximity and motion. Our visual programming language gives kids as young as four the ability to change how their links behave. By sparking young girls’ interest in technology now, it’s our hope that they will continue exploring this field as they get older.

To celebrate our official launch, Linkitz is taking the stage at We Are Wearables Toronto meetup at MaRS Discovery District. Thanks to Tom Emrich for inviting us to participate. We hope to see many of you there!

Stay tuned for lots of pictures!

Want to know the minute our campaign is live? Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @LinkitzToys, Like Linkitz on Facebook or subscribe to our mailing list for important updates.


Four days to go!

New Research Study: Kids, Creative Storyworlds, and Wearables

Linkitz is delighted to be participating with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in a research study on kids and wearables! Here's a brief description from the Principal Investigator, Professor Isabel Pedersen:

The Decimal Lab at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology is launching a new project, which will investigate the future of wearable technology through the lens of a child’s perspective and one that encourages girls in STEM learning contexts.  The first phase of the project involves extensive collaboration. Decimal Lab, professors, and students from the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities as well as the Faculty of Education are partnering with Linkitz, a start-up company developing a wearable device which will be used by children to help them learn about software coding. Linkitz is also the 2014 winner of the N100 competition hosted by Northumberland Business Development Assistance Corporation (NBDA Corp, Manager John Hayden). The CEO of Linkitz is MIT PhD and entrepreneur Lyssa Neel, who approached the lab for input. The intent is that our research project will inform the development of the Linkitz wearable. Kids, Creative Storyworlds, and Wearables will serve to examine how children think and feel about technology cast in their own stories about the future. Considering we are undergoing rapid social changes, and that schools are not necessarily able to keep abreast of them, this study seeks to learn how young children understand personal technology (e.g., wearable tech, graspable tech) in terms of story-making and story-telling amongst peers and alone (as solo participants). In order to conduct this research, this project will implement textual/visual analysis and ethnography with a group of kids in order to understand how children envision the future of wearable technology.

Isabel Pedersen, PhD
Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media, and Culture
Director of Decimal: Digital Culture and Media Lab
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
Canada
http://www.decimallab.ca/
twitter: isabel_pedersen

 

Linkitz is coming to Kickstarter!

Check out the new Linkitz logo!

Check out the new Linkitz logo!

Did you know that girls start losing interest in STEM as early as age 8? We plan to change that with Linkitz: a modular, programmable toy that allows girls ages four to eight create and customize their own stylish wearables!

On May 5, 2015, Linkitz will officially launch on Kickstarter.

Why do you need Linkitz? Here’s why we and a few really smart people think so:

Linkitz is designed to fill a major gap in the electronic toy market, where few technology toys are marketed to young girls. Educators and developmental psychologists agree that STEM interest should be nurtured from a young age, when early experiences shape lives. Playing with Linkitz will inspire creative engagement with technology.


You can read our full press release here.

We’re excited to inspire the next generation of female tech titans! To learn more about Linkitz, you can follow us on Twitter @LinkitzToys and subscribe to our mailing list.

 

Girls and Tech

There is a lot of talk about the lack of representation of women in tech, and it is deserved. Although virtually the same percentage of elementary school aged girls and  boys report liking math and science, by the time they get to college, young women have fled technical majors in droves: only 18% of all college engineering majors are female.

Why is it important to encourage girls to explore technology? There are many reasons!

  • Technology is ever-present in our lives, and girls should have a role in designing the technology that shapes the world they live in.
  • Eight out of the 10 growth jobs of the future require technology skills. When girls avoid technology, they get shut out of the best jobs.
  • By not encouraging girls to go into technology, we are depriving ourselves of half the thinkers and half the world changing ideas that girls might have discovered. 
  • Finally, and most importantly, working in technology is fun! It's like solving puzzles and problems.

Studies have shown that one factor that can inspire girls to pursue tech is to give young girls the opportunity to explore building and "making" using technology, so they can develop spatial skills, problem solving skills,  and confidence.

We believe that by encouraging girls to play with technology today, we can inspire a future generation of women with a lifelong interest in tech!

Toys and Beauty Recommendations Don't Have to Mix

LEGO Club magazine gets into the beauty business

If you haven't already seen it, LEGO received some criticism this week with its "beauty recommendations" for five-year-old girls. The criticism focused on a particular article in the LEGO Club magazine that called attention to a girl's appearance.

Here at Linkitz, we value girls for their brains, and we love all faces. We make toys that let girls explore technology and programming in an active, creative, and social way. No mirrors necessary.

--Lyssa Neel, Ph.D.

Developing a toy that's developmentally appropriate

Photo by woodleywonderworks, used under CC 2.0

Photo by woodleywonderworks, used under CC 2.0

Why did three (more or less) responsible adults upend their lives to make Linkitz? Because it’s fun!  Obviously.  But since I'll need at least one more reason to make a proper post out of this, we're doing it because Linkitz is the kind of toy that we love: the kind that helps kids grow and develop.

We all have toys that we remember fondly.  Sometimes it’s an attachment to the object itself. Somewhere I still have the plastic turtle that sat on—and that I thought was much more fun than—my grandparents’ piano.  With other toys, what sticks with you isn't the object, it's what you did with it. 

For me this was a junior carpentry ‘kit’ that I got when I was four or five.  It was a home-made kid-sized wooden work bench with a box full kid-sized hammers, chisels, saws and drills.  Don’t worry!  They were all hand-powered; even on a farm, four years old is considered just a liiiiitttle too young to use power tools without supervision.  I don’t have any of those tools any more; I don’t even remember what most of them looked like.  What I remember is what I did with them. The feeling of excitement and satisfaction at being able to make things, to change things, and to affect my environment was thrilling.

I remember that feeling so vividly because it was an important milestone.  For kids around that age (say Pre-K to grade 2), developing a sense of autonomy is their biggest challenge.  They need to test their abilities and to assure themselves that they are capable of changing their world. In a kid's mind these years are a constant tug-o-war between the thrill of proving their autonomy and the shame and helplessness they feel when they fail to do so (shout-out to Marina Bers, whose book Designing Digital Experiences provides at least ¾ of that metaphor).

I see Linkitz as an updated version of that kid-sized workshop.  It’s fun to play with, but it also gives you the tools to build something, and to put your stamp on the world.  And that can be the most thrilling way to play of all.