Mattel, the maker of Barbie, is expanding its partnership with learning platform provider Tynker to launch Barbie coding lessons. The companies say the move could help attract more girls into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) careers.

Mattel and Tynker began their partnership in 2015 by developing Hot Wheels and Monster High programming experiences that reached almost 4 million children.  This year, the companies plan to launch seven Barbie coding lessons that will teach girls about computer science and programming and expose them to careers such as being a vet, astronaut and robotics engineer.

“Through this collaboration, we continue our commitment to providing meaningful play experiences that are fun while helping kids with STEM learning, an important 21st century learning skill,” said Sven Gerjets, CTO of Mattel. “By exposing kids to STEM experiences on Tynker through Mattel characters they know and love, they may develop a passion for science and computing that could lead them to a career in a STEM-related field.”

Planned activities include:

  • Dedicated Barbie careers programming experience: The Barbie programming experience is designed for beginners and will gradually introduce young learners to basic programming concepts by casting them in different career roles alongside Barbie. The experience will include seven modules and will launch alongside the reveal of Barbie’s “Career of the Year” in summer this year.
  • Mattel Code-A-Thon and teacher outreach: Mattel and Tynker will host a digital event to encourage children to participate in programming, featuring their favourite characters. The companies will also work together to provide teachers with the tools needed to leverage this content in the classroom.
  • Global Student Engagement: Mattel and Tynker will continue to leverage content from BarbieHot Wheels and Monster High to promote the 2018 Computer Science Education Week Hour of Code in December.

Learning through play

The move follows a number of initiatives announced recently aimed at encouraging more children, particularly girls, to consider STEM careers.

Last year, the American Girl doll company revealed that its 2018 Girl of the Year doll will be Luciana Vega, “a creative, confident 11-year-old girl and aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars.”

In November it was announced that Little Miss Inventor will be the latest character based on the cartoon series created by Roger Hargreaves. The new book will be released the week of March 8, 2018 to coincide with International Woman’s Day and British Science Week.

Last year, LEGO also launched a Women of NASA set of figures.

Recent research commissioned by Microsoft found while most girls in the UK become attracted to STEM subjects just before the age of 11, their interest drops off sharply between the ages of 16-17, highlighting the importance of engaging girls at primary school age.

The research also suggested that the path to preventing this decline in interest includes better role models, parental and teacher support, practical experience and knowledge of STEM subjects’ application in the real world, as well as believing they will be treated equally with men working in STEM.

Engaging at a young age

At a recent FINN Sessions panel debate, the aerospace experts agreed the industry must find ways to expand the pipeline of young people who see engineering and manufacturing as an attractive and viable career. They noted that this needs to start as early as possible. Watch the debate.

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