Published August 30, 2019
Additional Equity in Coding article:
By Stephan Turnipseed
Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
I love demographics. It is such a wonderful
science based in the simple fact that if you are
25 today, in 10 years you will be 35. It has such
an elegant simplicity in both its approach and its
predictably accurate portrayal of the future. One
such outcome of this straightforward science
is that the future of any country’s population
can be seen in its children. In the US, our future
is accurately portrayed in the fact that
we are becoming a country with
no true racial majority. That means
we need to face directly the issue
of equity in what has traditionally
been a white majority country.
Before we go any further, I am
not going into any of the political
rhetoric around equity and racism,
so you can sit back and relax.
Rather, the elegant simplicity of
demographics leads us to the
conclusion that, given
STEM jobs, if we do not change the primarily
white, male face of these fields, we will not
have enough people to fill the positions.
Coding and STEM give us unique
opportunities to address these needs through
creating experiences for children, engaging
them in STEM learning in an equitable
environment promoting understanding of
diversity and cooperation among sexes,
races, and cultures. This is most effectively
accomplished through hands-on activities,
stories, and play, which include diverse
characters and culturally sensitive instruction.
Our latest offering to address this need
is Smart Buddies™. Built around the natural
play patterns of girls, Smart Buddies leaves
behind the prevailing industry notion that
product built around boy play patterns (tanks,
cars, and speed) with neutral colors is equally
appealing to girls and multiple racial cultures.
Research tells us this notion is not true, and
demographics shows us it is not true when
we look at the participation of women and
people of color in the coding and STEM fields.
The advantage of girl play patterns comes
in the non-confrontational characteristics of
the Smart Buddy vehicles and the stories that
engage and come alive for the children as they
immerse themselves in their characters.
In this new approach, Smart Buddies
addresses head-on the wonderful
synergy that occurs when mixed
sexes, races, and ethnicity learn respect, problem-solving, and conflict
resolution in a fun and engaging manner.
Designed for Grades 3-5, Smart Buddies allows
children to question, and under guidance
of their teacher, deal with racism, culture,
and conflict resolution in a safe and playful
environment. More importantly, it allows
girls and children of color to see themselves
in STEM careers through the eyes of diverse
figures that look like them, riding self-balancing
robots called Siggys. The stories and coding
challenges solved by the children in a playful,
collaborative, creative, problem-solving activity
lead to the aha moments we all treasure.
Through the challenges they solve, children
learn the important soft and hard skills needed
to be the workforce and citizens of the future.
The male and female figures appear in the
four most numerous races in America (white,
black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, and
Asian) and deal with a multitude of challenges
that are both engaging and believable.
We see possible stories such as Zara, an
African American girl who is a computer
genius, teaming up with Lee, an Asian boy
who dreams of becoming a creative graphic
artist, to plot a course to deliver a computer
antivirus to multiple locations in Zara’s town.
We see Sebastian, a Hispanic boy who dreams
of designing computer video games, teaming
up with Jen, a white girl who is an inventor
and tinkerer aiming to become a mechanical
engineer, to collaborate on coding a treasure
hunt to use in a new phone game.
Throughout each story, we see new children
introduced with different ethnicities and races
as well as special needs children and children
There is great truth in the idea that children
can never be what they cannot see. With
Smart Buddies, we navigate the color and
sex boundaries through coding and STEM
experiences. These experiences add depth and
meaning for children throughout each day and
for the rest of their lives.