Coding robot for girls arrives in Canada in hopes of attracting more girls to STEM subjects

The world’s first coding robot for girls, SmartGurlz, has officially arrived in Canada.

The toy, which successfully raised funding on an episode of Shark Tank in the US, is being introduced here by Canadian Classroom, a distributor of educational technologies. The line of fashion dolls ride around on Segwey-styled scooters called Siggy Robots, and aims to combine technology and play to attract more girls into STEM related subjects.

“In trying to appeal to girls, manufacturers often take a ‘boy’ product and paint it pink. This does not appeal to girls nor does it take into consideration their play patterns. Girls like to role play and create stories,” CEO and co-founder Sharmi Albrechtsen told the Huffington Post.

Albrechtsen created SmartGurlz because she was unable to find a toy to inspire her daughter who was struggling with math. She set out to design a toy specifically to engage girls’ brains to learn.

Girls (or boys) ages 6 and up can use the toy’s “Sugarcoded” app to learn how to code their Siggy Robots and accomplish story-based challenges. The app takes girls through the basics of coding by asking them to program Siggy to take their fashion doll for a spin, with options to drive in a straight line, zig-zag or in a “coordinated dance routine”.

The Bluetooth-enabled toy also allows children to free-play and network as well, with the ability to share code between friends.

“We have a long way to go when it comes to inspiring more girls to get into STEM.“ said Johanna Garcia, Founder of Canadian Classroom. “STEM jobs in Canada pay higher than other industries, yet women only represent 23% of the STEM workforce. Canadian Classroom is committed to improving Canadian girls’ access to technologies at an early age so that they will be more confident in pursuing future careers in STEM. We are thrilled about our partnership with the creators of SmartGurlz and are proud to be the exclusive distributor in Canada.”

Studies have shown a difference in brain development between boys and girls. Boys tend to have more grey matter in the parts of the brain that house intelligence, while girls have more white matter. This could explain why boys tend to excel at math while girls tend to excel at languages, communication, and reading. SmartGurlz helps girls refine both types of brain strengths, encouraging reading and verbal skills, as well as technology, math and coding.

The dolls retail for over US $100, and come in five different characters—four of them based on the four elements of STEM, with the fifth being characterized as a “creative artist—and while it appears that 4/5 dolls are caucasian (2 of them are blondes), the character section of the website claims that one of them is Asian. Despite having labels like “young Asian chemistry star who loves trendy fashion and science” and “cool handy teen mechanic who can repair pretty much anything in a jiffy”, it’s the blond “creative artist” that is sold out until spring 2018.

To be honest, I’m still way more excited about the announcement that Kids Code Jeunesse is one of the recipients  of the inaugural CanCode program and $6 million to continue their mission of digital literacy in schools.



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