Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Radical Dollhouses & Girlpower Play" -- Q&A with Roominate Cofounder and Hapa Sister Alice Brooks

Roominate co-founders Alice Brooks (left) & Bettina Chen (right) [image source]

by Sharon H Chang
for ParentMap ~
Can toys inspire the next generation of female technology innovators? That's what Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, two engineers trained at M.I.T. and Stanford, believe. Brooks and Chen are the founders of Roominate, a company whose products, wired dollhouse building kits, are designed to spark young girls' interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) through creative play. I recently had the privilege of chatting with Roominate CEO and co-founder Alice Brooks about the roots of her interest in engineering, her favorite playthings as a kid, and what drove her to co-found Roominate, which prototyped, tested and launched its product line last year...
"Bettina and I met in grad school at Stanford. We became friends right away and started talking about why there weren’t more female engineers. We realized things we had done when we were younger planted that seed of loving engineering. When I was 8 years old I asked my dad if Santa Claus could bring me a Barbie and I got a saw instead. We were both playing with things that weren’t really traditional girls’ toys. The hypothesis we had was that if we could design something that could bring similar experiences to more girls then we’d be able to inspire more girls to think about engineering or other fields. We knew a lot of girls were already comfortable with dollhouses but we also saw that these dollhouses were so static. So [we thought] if we gave them the tools and circuits of building, they could actually design cooler things and have a lot more fun with it...
I think that for little kids there’s a lot of social pressure if you are interested in things like math and science. There’s a lot of being seen as the 'nerdy' kid. Then at MIT, even though they have done a really good job of recruiting more women, there’s still this undercurrent of bias against females in sciences and engineering. One time someone asked what major I was and literally went through 10 other majors before I just told him. That was a moment that stuck out in my mind; that it would be so hard to grasp that I would be a mechanical engineer..."
read the full article

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Where's My Tea Cakes? Missing (Hi)stories of Resistance for AAPI Children

Tea Cakes for Tosh [image source]

by Sharon H Chang

A few weeks ago I read a book with my son that I just can't get out of my head. Tea Cakes for Tosh by author Kelly Starling Lyons and self-proclaimed artistrator E.B. Lewis is about an African American boy named Tosh, his beloved grandma Honey, their treasured visits together, and her tasty golden tea cakes; a recipe from his great-great-great-great grandma Ida who was a plantation slave. But more poignantly and importantly, this book is about the way an elder connects a younger member of her community with his ancestors and passes down a history of resistance through stories and food, a human love of things simple and profound.