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Innovation Advent Day 19: Inspiring the next gen of innovators

I think there are many reasons why I became an engineer, but I’ve no doubt that having lots of practical and educational STEM-related (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) toys when I was a kid definitely helped. Many a happy hour was spent with overflowing boxes of lego, k’nex or meccano. I had a chemistry set, electronics kits, scalextric and even a set of overalls to help my Dad fixing the car (small hands were useful for unscrewing hard-to-reach nuts and bolts in the engine). By the way, I did have dolls too!

Recent research by the Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET) found that toys with a STEM focus were three times more likely to be targeted at boys than at girls. And despite high-profile recent campaigns that have had some success, toys for girls are still overwhelmingly pink.

Being a woman in engineering (the UK is 8% female engineering workforce) and knowing I had lots of elements in my childhood from my toys to teachers that helped me get here, I’m now really passionate about encouraging the next generation of STEMmers. And at this time of year, what better way to do it than with a few STEM Christmas presents?

So if Santa still has a few presents to pick up for your little darlings, as long as they’ve been nice this year, here are two great lists of STEM toys. They are fun for big kids too!



There’s also this delightful find, a book written by our academic colleague Adam Golden of Costain. ‘Bella’s Curiously Creative Building Adventure’ follows young Bella and her cat’s adventures in construction: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Adam-Golden I’ve ordered two copies myself to give to some young cousins of mine!

The UK is facing a big STEM and particularly engineering skills shortage. We need lots more engineers to deliver our infrastructure for future generations. Few things we can do here: ensure we continue to adopt and embrace technology for delivering our projects smarter – attracting the young ones into our exciting industry, tell the young people we meet about our projects, show them that it’s a great career (and not just for boys), and get some STEM stocking fillers for them!

4 Responses to “Innovation Advent Day 19: Inspiring the next gen of innovators”

  1. We recently visited LEGOLAND Dubai and my daughter now loves playing with Duplo (early days). I therefore have capitalised on her imagination and bought Adam Golden’s book which is excellent! My daughter now has one waiting in her Christmas stocking, that the proceeds go to charity is even better! Well done Adam 🙂

  2. Thanks to Sophie I’d already seen one of these lists and my twin girls now have an electronics kit winging its way to them, along with the Robot Mouse and a copy each of Adam’s book which is excellent. I’ve long been fiercely anti the enforced “pinkification” of girls toys and it’s been interesting to see their choices change as they get older – pink has now been declared the Worst Colour Ever.. 🙂 Princess dresses have given way to jeans and t-shirts and it’s reassuring that despite the marketing messages, it does seem that for many girls, it’s a narrow and short-lived phase. Time for the more exciting toys to come down the chimney, methinks…

  3. Never mind the kids – I want the Chemistry Set in my stocking 🙂

    I can vouch for the Snap Circuit. My son loves it – we actually built a Father Christmas catcher (a pressure pad under the rug, and we now have the photographic evidence he exists!) 🙂

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