PicoCricket: Mindstorms for younger kids, girls

Lego Mindstorms offers amazing robotic programming experiences for kids, but the perception among adults and children is that they're a "boy toy" - perhaps because they're really geared to tweens, an age at which girls start to fall away from many things math and science.

Lego Mindstorms offers amazing robotic programming experiences for kids, but the perception among adults and children is that they're a "boy toy" - perhaps because they're really geared to tweens, an age at which girls start to fall away from many things math and science.

Playful Invention Co, or Pico, is offering a robot creation toy for the under 9 set, News.com reports. PicoCricket grew out of a collaboration between Lego and the MIT Media Lab.

Many of those excited about the PicoCricket Kit are enthused about its potential to interest young girls in computers and engineering.

"When I asked my friend's 10-year-old daughter last year if she wanted a Lego Mindstorms set for Christmas, she wrinkled her nose and said, 'Aren't those for boys?'" related Mia Kim, who writes for female tech blog Popgadget. According to Kim, the PicoCricket Kit's biggest advantage may be that it's "techy but doesn't seem like it," a potential draw for girls who think building sets and robots are too much of a boy thing.

But MIT prof Michael Resnick says PicoCricket isn't meant to be a girl version of Mindstorms.

"(We wanted) to broaden participation to a wider range of learners," he said. "We knew that lots of kids are interested in art and music, so we wanted to make sure that there were lots of ways for them to be able to use art and music as an entry point to explore math, science and engineering."

 

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