GOOD

Dollhouse 2.0: Roominate Lets Girls Play Architect, Designer, and Technologist

Could a toy that encourages girls towards STEM be the best way to balace the gender gap in these fields?

Year after year, three female students sat through college engineering and math classes asking themselves the same question—where are the girls? The students—Jennifer Kessler, Alice, Brooks, and Bettina Chen—realized they all shared childhood experiences that drew them to technology, business, and math, fields typically dominated by men despite women’s educational asecendence. So they invented a toy girls can build from the ground up to inspire them to take on male-dominated fields.


Roominate is the toy "where every young girl is an artist, engineer, architect, and visionary" with her own opportunity to build a dollhouse-sized room, customize the furniture, select the decorations, and electrify the whole thing with working circuits. Kessler, Brooks, and Chen began the project while studying engineering and business as graduate students at Stanford. Their Kickstarter reached its $25,000 goal within five days, and ended on June 16 with almost $86,000 raised. They sold more than 1,300 units and the waiting list shows even more demand.

The women say they were all given the tools at a young age to eschew gender stereotypes. Brooks got a saw when she asked for a Barbie. Kessler loved to solve math riddles. Chen grew up building Lego creations with her brother, never being told that the toy was intended for boys. The older they got though, the more gender disparity the women faced. According to the National Science Foundation, only 15 percent of female college freshmen plan to major in science, technology, engineering, or math, and less than 11 percent of engineers are women.

Chen says her electrical engineering class at the California Institute of Technology was 10 to 15 percent women. “I guess I got used to it, but it kind of sucked,” she says. “I didn't get why there weren’t many girls. A lot of times people assume, ‘Oh, you’re a girl. You’re not going to be doing engineering, you’re going to be a humanities major.'”

Brooks’ mechanical engineering program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was 40 percent women, but she still felt she had to prove herself of being worthy of the major. “I don’t think it has to be that way for future women,” she says.

Roominate moves young girls away from the pink and frilly and towards the thoughtful and creative. Two hundred girls have tested the toy so far. Some have decided to make their room a restaurant or a pet shop, designed accordingly, then powered it up with a working fan or lit miniature television. Brooks says one of her favorite moments was with a seven-year-old girl who was curious about how the prototype was built. Within a half hour of Brooks explaining how Roominate is designed and cut with a laser, the girl was creating a 3-D box of her own and trying out advanced software.

“That’s exactly what we want,” Kessler says. “We want Roominate to be an exploratory place for girls to see how the world works, and tinkering with things, and to gain confidence in themselves.”

Now that the project is funded, the women have put down the soldering irons and outsourced to a contract store in the Bay Area to create the prototypes in bulk. They plan to expand and ship internationally. You can purchase a Roominate for the smart young girl in your life by joining the wait list on their website.

Images courtesy of Roominate

Articles

The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

RELATED: The World Health Organization declares war on the out of control price of insulin

Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

RELATED: Alarmingly high insulin prices are forcing Americans to flock to Canada to buy the drug

The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.

Health

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Cocostation

Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger

Dizaul

Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head

Speakman

Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor

Zomchi

Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet
Instagram / Leonardo DiCaprio

This August, the world watched as the Amazon burned. There were 30,901 individual fires that lapped at the largest rainforest in the world. While fires can occur in the dry season due to natural factors, like lightning strikes, it is believed that the widespread fires were started by loggers and farmers to clear land. Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cites a different cause: the actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

DiCaprio wasn't accused of hanging out in the rainforest with a box of matches, however President Bolsonaro did accuse the actor of funding nonprofit organizations that allegedly set fires to raise donations.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet