“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.”
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!