It’s been a month since New York Toy Fair and if you were there I’m sure you heard “STEM/STEAM” mentioned a few times – or maybe even more than a few. As one person posted about on my blog, “If I heard [STEM/STEAM] one more time I thought my head was going to explode. Oh and each time it was followed by "Are you familiar with the concept?" Arghhh!”
It’s hard not to be familiar with the STEM/STEAM concept if you’re in the toy and game industry. What started as a somewhat small trend years ago turned into an enormous beast of a trend in the past year – and I’m not against that at all. In fact, I think it’s pretty darn cool that being smart and smart toys/games are trendy. It’s great that there are tons of toys that teach kids about a variety of STEM topics including gears, pulleys, light electronics, etc. There are also games that teach coding, logic, spatial reasoning – the list goes on – but my issue is that I think we’re missing one very key component in this mix of STEM/STEAM products: creative problem solving/invention.
When I was in grammar school I participated in the Invent America challenge. Afterwards I decided I no longer wanted to be an astronomer but instead wanted to be an inventor. To which my dreams were temporarily dashed as an adult informed me that “inventor” wasn’t really a job. (I proved them wrong!) Honestly, I don’t blame them. When people say “inventor,” they think of a dead white guy as I covered in a previous GTN post. But that is NOT the way it has to be, and I hope that this STEM/STEAM trend really starts to emphasize that point.
The question becomes, how can we improve upon what we're already doing to make the STEM/STEAM trend, not only more comprehensive, but also more valuable in the long run to our industry? I mean… at some point we're going to need the next generation to step up and create some toys and games to keep our industry chugging. Is there a way to prepare this next generation through the products we make for them now?
I'll talk more about how we can make it happen in tomorrow's post.