National Toy Design Contest to Engage Girls in Engineering and Science

Released: 24-Sep-2002 12:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Smith College
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The Sally Ride Science Club and Smith College announced today the launch of TOYchallenge, a national toy design competition that through fun, play and imagination, will encourage girls' and boys' interest in engineering and inspire them to pursue careers in this area. The winners of the contest, which is sponsored by Hasbro, Inc., will be announced at a national showcase in June, 2003.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women comprise only 9 percent of the engineering workforce. But in elementary school equal numbers of girls and boys are interested in--and good at--math, science and technology. Unfortunately, beginning around the sixth grade, more girls than boys drift away from these subjects.

To keep those girls interested in technical fields and in the engineering pipeline, the Sally Ride Science Club--founded by America's first female astronaut and Smith College's Picker Engineering Program--set out to develop an engineering design challenge that would capture the interest of both boys and girls and defy prevailing stereotypes about gender and technology.

The result is TOYchallenge, a concept based on the first-year engineering design course at Smith, which will challenge teams of middle school-aged kids from across the country to design their own toys.

"The TOYchallenge competition is an ideal vehicle to capture the imaginations of both boys and girls and illustrate that engineering can be fun and exciting," observed Sally Ride, founder of the Sally Ride Science Club.

"Toys and games have a universal appeal, and through TOYchallenge, we hope to communicate an element of real-world design to which all kids can relate," said Domenico Grasso, chair of Smith's Picker Engineering Program.

Toy makers from Hasbro, the contest sponsor, will answer questions on the contest's Web site to help the kids turn their creativity into reality.

"Hasbro has been making toys and games that have inspired children for almost 80 years," noted Alan Hassenfeld, chairman and CEO of Hasbro, Inc. "We are very excited to be a sponsor of this competition, which we hope will inspire continued interest in math and science. Perhaps it will even inspire a future toy designer!"

Joining in the fun of TOYchallenge is easy. To get started, the design teams must:

-- find an adult coach and register by Nov. 15, 2002 (registration fee is $25 per team);

-- choose a theme from 10 toy categories;

-- and create and submit for evaluation a visual presentation and operating instructions for their original toy or game concept by Jan. 31, 2003.

TOYchallenge guidelines and application forms are available online at http://www.toychallenge.com. Both boys and girls may participate, but at least half of the members of each team must be girls. The competition will culminate in a national showcase, open to all participating teams, to be held at Smith College in late spring 2003.

Prizes will be awarded at each stage of the TOYchallenge competition. The three grand prizes* are:

-- a week at Space Camp for each team member;
-- a personalized Hasbro action figure and behind-the-scenes tour of Hasbro, Inc.;
-- and a VIP tour of NASA's Kennedy Space Center for the team members and their families, with a private question/answer session with an astronaut.

*travel not included

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the country. Established in 1999, Smith's Picker engineering program [http://www.smith.edu/engin]--the first and only engineering program at a U.S. women's college--is focused on developing broadly educated, well-rounded engineers capable of assuming leadership roles in corporations, non-profit organizations and technology-related fields. The first class of engineering majors will graduate in 2004, earning bachelor's degrees in engineering science.

The Sally Ride Science Club is operated by Imaginary Lines, Inc. [www.ImaginaryLinesInc.com], a company founded by former astronaut Sally Ride to provide support for the large numbers of girls and young women who are, or might become, interested in science, math, engineering and technology. The national club was created to keep girls engaged in science adventures by connecting them to people, information and attitudes that will nurture their relationship with science at a critical time in their lives. It is open to upper elementary and middle school girls across the country and actively promotes membership from diverse groups of girls.

Hasbro, Inc. (NYSE:HAS), is a worldwide leader in children's and family leisure time entertainment products and services, including the design, manufacture and marketing of games and toys ranging from traditional to high-tech. Both internationally and in the U.S., its PLAYSKOOL, TONKA, MILTON BRADLEY, PARKER BROTHERS, TIGER and WIZARDS OF THE COAST brands and products provide the highest quality and most recognizable play experiences in the world.

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