At BG, we wanted to take time for a Public Service Announcement to inform you that you only have two days to buy or dig up a Slinky before celebrating National Slinky Day this Saturday! For such a simple toy concept, the idea for the Slinky came about in a complex manner. Richard Thompson James was a new graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Pennsylvania when he joined the US Navy as a Naval Engineer. He was working on developing a metal spring to suspend sensitive shipboard instruments while aboard rocky naval ships when he dropped one and saw the way it kept moving across the floor. After giving some thought to the tension spring-inspired toy, James took out a $500 loan in 1943 and began the James Spring & Wire Company. His iconic toy was deemed the Slinky after his wife suggested the name.
Since the invention of the Slinky in the 1940s, toys encouraging children’s cognition have increased dramatically. It is easy to think of the basics; LEGOs, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs, KNEX. The only problem with most of these toys is that they tend to be geared towards boys. The issue of men and women’s involvement in the engineering and design world has been a topic of discussion for as long as most of us can remember. It’s no secret that the number of women in these work forces is significantly lower than men. In 2014, the National Science Foundation reported that out of all worldwide engineers, 87% are male and 13% are female.
Recently, one Stanford graduate was so bothered by the lack of women in her program she decided to make a difference. After graduating with a Mechanical Engineering/Product Design Degree, Debbie Sterling established GoldieBlox, Inc. in 2012. It manufactures toys for girls, encouraging them to get building and minimize the gap in science, technology, engineering and math. GoldieBlox’s three major toys all teach a concept and come with a book explaining why Goldie needed to build her contraption and how it works. GoldieBlox’s Spinning Machine explains how to make a belt drive, their Dunk Tank teaches about hinges and levers, and their Parade Float makes the wheel and axle model easy enough for a four-year-old to understand.
Whether you have sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins, or even your friends’ kids; surprising them with a toy that will do more for their brain than they could ever imagine cultivates our next generation of architects and engineers. Even if it is just a Slinky!