Debbie Sterling is an engineer on a mission. She is out to inspire the next generation of female engineers and tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and she is doing it through toys.
Focused around Goldie, the modern female engineer role model, Sterling’s GoldieBlox company creates stories and construction sets that inspire girls to build and invent.
The vision for GoldieBlox is to nurture a generation of girls, develop their spatial skills and build self-confidence in their problem solving abilities, encouraging them to contribute to the progress made by engineers.
Sterling writes and illustrates Goldie’s stories, taking inspiration from her grandmother, one of the first female cartoonists and creator of popular cartoon character Mr. Magoo.
Her inspiration to create a mission-driven company came in 2008 when she spent six months volunteering at a grassroots non-profit in rural India. She created a viral fundraising campaign called “I Want a Goat”, raising over $30,000 for economic and educational development in the region.
This experience helped pave the way for Sterling to find her true passion – inspiring the next generation of female engineers – after she noticed that while engineers are solving some of the biggest challenges facing society, the field is dominated by men largely due to the lack of female role models in the engineering field.
A Stanford University engineering graduate, she finally founded GoldieBlox in 2012. The company was initially funded through Kickstarter and blew past its $150,000 goal, finishing at 190 per cent of its target with 5,519 backers and $285,881 pledged.
“GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine is the first product we have available,” Sterling said. “In Goldie’s debut story, she decides to build a spinning machine to help her dog, Nacho, chase his tail. Soon, the whole gang wants in on the action. Girls can help Goldie build a belt drive to spin everybody.”
Sterling said her protagonist breaks down the stigma concerning what constitutes a stereotypical engineer.
“In her overalls and tool belt, Goldie is a quirky girl who loves to build. Our mission is to make engineering fun and accessible to girls who will go on to build the future,” she said.
Aimed at girls from four to nine years of age, the company has secured a high profile supply contract with Toys’R’Us®.
The company is now developing additional construction sets that will continue to develop Goldie’s story.