These days, there are numerous ways girls can learn about STEM.
The traditional classroom setting may not always be the most interesting medium for kids who would rather pick up a toy than a book. To facilitate outside learning, Linkitz created a toy that empowers young female learners to pursue technology with their friends.
Combining Education and Fun
Teaching kids how to code starts with the basics. Linkitz accomplishes this through a modular toy that girls can interact with and customize. There are five components called “links” (Speaker, Move, Friend, Microphone and LED), each designed to perform a specific function. Combining the various pieces creates different features. For example, putting the Speaker, Heart and Microphone together will turn the band into a walkie-talkie. To make a friendship bracelet, simply snap on two LED links and a Heart. The toy offers out-of-the-box functionality, allowing girls to mix and match their own personal combinations.
Learning with Friends
Ultimately, the Linkitz is a social device. Customizing the band is done through a simple, visual programming language. With the right configurations, girls can send messages to their friends and receive alerts when they are nearby. Compared to other “coding 101” toys for children, this one encourages young learners to step away from the computer and test their creations in real environments. For parents who are promoting an active lifestyle, this is a huge plus.
Safety is Top Priority
The Linkitz team has taken extra precautions to ensure that the toy does not compromise the wearer’s safety and privacy. Radio connections found in the Friend Link are encrypted. The data sent out from the device is also non-identifiable. With the level of security found in the band, you can be confident that your little one will not be tracked or suspiciously monitored.
Design and Robust Solutions
Lyssa Neal, creator of Linkitz and 10th woman to officially earn a PhD in computer science from MIT, let us in on the inspiration and design of the influential wearable:
Which features did you prioritize during the design process?
Comfort: Being able to wear Linkitz comfortably and naturally on the body was our number one requirement. This influenced the size of the links and the flexibility of the entire assembly.
Wearable locations: Another consideration was where on the body Linkitz would be worn. Adult wearables are mostly wrist-worn, but kids might also wear a necklace, a headband, a zipper pull, maybe even put Linkitz on their shoes. So we wanted the design to accommodate those options.
Ease and robustness of assembly: The design had to be easy to for young kids to assemble, take apart and rearrange, so kids could have the experience of exploring different combinations of links. The connectors have to be pretty tough to stand up to that kind of repeated plugging and unplugging. And the connection strength had to be strong enough that parts wouldn’t simply fall off and get lost.
Aesthetics: Finally, of course, the aesthetics were very important. We wanted Linkitz to be cool-looking, something that kids would be proud to wear.
What problems were you trying to address with the release of the product?
We were really motivated to create a technology toy that would appeal to young girls, so they could experience the fun of creating their own technology, rather than just being passive consumers. We want to nurture their natural interest and curiosity, while giving them the confidence that comes from hands-on experience.
There are some great electronic building toys on the market, like LittleBits, Cubelets, and VEX Robotics, but we hear from many parents that these toys just don’t seem to appeal to young girls as much as they do to boys. This is a complicated issue, and studies have attributed this to various causes, such as marketing, social expectations for what makes something a “girls toy”, even that relatives find it safer to select a traditional “girl” toy when they buy gifts.
We know we can’t “boil the ocean”, but we do believe that by encouraging girls to play with technology today, we can inspire a future generation of women with a lifelong interest in technology.
The company is currently accepting pre-orders on the official website. There are several options available, starting with the Linkitz Basic Set. This package costs $60 and includes a Motion link, two LED links, a hub, a USB link, a USB cable, and a wristband. The Linkitz Plus Set, which is priced at $100, comes with everything in the Basic Set, and Microphone and Speaker links.
For two bands, there’s the Best Friends Set. It comes with two Linkitz Plus sets and two Friend links for $250. T-shirts and fridge magnets are also available on the site.