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Video: Kit Turns Arts & Crafts Into Robots

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Dave Palmer
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Re: Why aim at the female of the species?
Dave Palmer   7/20/2012 4:56:48 PM
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@chrisbartley: Thanks for joining the discussion, and thanks for your work on this neat kit.

I understand the idea of meeting students where they're at, but I also think it's important to challenge backwards assumptions about gender roles (which, by the way, the original "Robot Diaries" concept seems to have been full of).

The fact is that only 5.5% of mechanical engineers in the U.S. are women, while 95.9% of secretaries are women.  How much of this is due to the natural aptitudes of men and women, and how much is due to social conditioning?

The fact that the percentage of women engineers in China is closer to 40% suggests that it is mostly the latter.

The way to deal with this issue is not by presenting engineering in a way which conforms more closely to traditional ideas about how girls should behave, but by challenging these ideas.

chrisbartley
User Rank
Iron
Re: Why aim at the female of the species?
chrisbartley   7/20/2012 9:54:24 PM
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Dave Palmer: "The way to deal with this issue is not by presenting engineering in a way which conforms more closely to traditional ideas about how girls should behave, but by challenging these ideas."

I guess I don't understand how the Arts & Bots program isn't gender neutral, or how the methods we're employing are targeting girls more than boys.  Is it because of the use of craft and recycled materials?  I don't see that as gender specific in any way.  Yes, at the beginning, a primary motivation of the project was to figure out how to engage (only) girls, in an attempt at doing research on whether we could help prevent the decline in STEM interest among middle school girls. But I've already explained that, in its current form, it's not gender specific yet remains engaging and completely accessible for both boys and girls, using skills (cutting, gluing, measuring, etc) they already have and enjoy (there may be exceptions, but I'm not aware of any reported cases).  I can't imagine what would be more gender neutral.  Fact is, girls and boys alike love it, and the teachers are finding it a great way to build STEM concepts in both STEM and non-STEM classes. What would you suggest we do instead?  How can we better challenge "traditional ideas about how girls should behave"?
If you're interested, I encourage you (and anyone else here listening) to poke around on the posterous site (http://robotdiaries.posterous.com/) for examples of how its being used.  Sure, the project is not perfect, and we're constantly evolving and refining it, and we welcome and encourage feedback on how we can improve.
 
Here are some links to get you started:
Also, see my first post early on in the comments list for links to other ways the system can be used and programmed by more advanced users.
 
 
thanks,
 
Chris


Dave Palmer
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Why aim at the female of the species?
Dave Palmer   7/20/2012 10:26:46 PM
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@chrisbartley: Don't get me wrong, I think the project in its current form is great.  Thanks for the links!

I think the original concept of coming up with something more "girlish" to get girls more engaged in STEM (i.e. keeping diaries, expressing their feelings, etc.) was misguided.  But, fortunately, the kids themselves seem to have helped to put you on the right track.

As you point out, the final product is something that can appeal to everyone.  In fact, I might order a kit.

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