MONEY Workplace

Science Games for Girls Can Open Doors to Lucrative Careers

Courtesy Roominate Roominate rPower, available this fall, lets girls control ferris wheels, RVs and other creations using a phone or tablet.

But are they learning the money management and fundraising skills that will allow them to run their own companies?

Pink Legos not being quite enough, a slew of start-ups, many of them founded by women, are attempting to motivate girls into lucrative and satisfying careers in the traditionally male-dominated areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

But while girls string together HTML instructions and tinker with circuits, are they learning the money management and fundraising skills that will allow them to run their own companies – or even just manage their bank accounts?

Women have traditionally lagged men in financial literacy and investing prowess, according to Annamaria Lusardi, a professor of economics at the George Washington School University of Business in Washington, DC.

“Knowing science is not enough for women,” says Lusardi, an expert in financial literacy. “You need a capacity to make good financial decisions.”

Confidence is the key to unlocking women’s potential in these areas, Lusardi says. She helps run annual studies testing financial literacy, science and math knowledge around the world. When “I don’t know” is included as an option, women pick that much more than men, Lusardi says. Yet in a test case removing that option for some respondents, women answered the questions and mostly got the answers right.

“We have to really show to women that they should take the plunge, because it is very important,” says Lusardi.

Try, Try Again

Debbie Sterling, who founded the building kit GoldieBlox, says her products teach confidence by allowing girls to fail. “It opens their minds to say it’s ok to tackle a problem even if you’re not going to get it perfect the first time,” she says.

Players can fit the toy’s interlocking plastic building pieces in many different ways, so they experience trial and error.

Storybooks accompany the set, featuring positive role models. The main characters, Ruby and Goldie, are purposefully not prodigies, but rather are B+ students who are really open-minded and willing to try, try, try again.

“There’s the boy-genius archetype in media that suggests that unless you have IQ off the charts, you’re not good enough. I think that archetype is really damaging,” says Sterling.

Supply and Demand

The goal of STEM play is to get children’s creativity flowing, and the founders of GoldieBlox and other programs such as Roominate have seen all sorts of inventions come to life.

The best of them identify some sort of need and figure out how to capitalize on it – the basic laws of supply and demand that drive all successful business.

The lesson to learn, says Lusardi: Think of how you can build something you can sell, and then creatively manage your resources.

With Roominate, a modular building system with circuits, players create rooms with functional lights, fans, furniture and other features. While the pastel-colored pieces are designed to fit together into rather domestic configurations, the company’s founders, Alice Brooks and Bettina Chen, have seen customers take off from there. They develop play storefronts, lemonade stands and other businesses, which teach them mini-business lessons as well.

One GoldieBlox user took the kit and some paintbrushes and created a drawing machine, according to Sterling. She made original paintings with it that she sold, and then she donated all the profits to charity.

Another success story: Tampon Run, a free iPhone app designed by two New York city teenagers. It is an old-fashioned arcade game where the heroine uses tampons as weapons to defeat enemies. The app was created by students of Girls Who Code, a national non-profit aiming to teach computer programming to one million girls by 2020.

More wide-reaching is that many girls have graduated from Girls Who Code to paid internships in the community. “I think they are now comfortable making money,” says founder Reshma Saujani.

MONEY Toys

This Might Be LEGO’s Cutest Set Ever

wall-e-lego-set-cute
SMYTHS / smythstoys.com

At least until the Minions get their own collection.

Images of what appears to be the new official Wall-E LEGO set are online, reports Gizmodo.

Thanks to a pair of giant, anthropomorphic eyes, the Pixar character model might be the cutest LEGO set ever, or at least in recent memory. This conclusion is based on a perusal of the toy company’s current and discontinued themes. (Not even Dora the Explorer or Baby Mickey Mouse can compete.)

Irish retailer Smyths Toys will start selling the set for about €58 ($65) on December 1 of this year, though LEGO aficionados predict Wall-E will likely cost the standard $40 for a set of its size. Though the image could potentially be a placeholder, it seems more likely that the box shown on the Smyths site is legitimate, writes Gizmodo.

The inspiration for the Wall-E set came from a design submitted to the LEGO ideas site, where fans can share concepts for new themes. This time the fan was Angus MacLane, an animator who actually worked on Pixar’s team for the film.

If you want even more cute LEGOs, don’t despair that the design for a Minions-themed set didn’t make it off the ideas site: You can always just make your own.

Read Next: Here’s How to Get a Free Jurassic World Lego Toy

MONEY freebies

Here’s How to Get a Free Jurassic World Lego Toy

150612_EM_LEGO
vn-thanh.vo On Saturday, Toys R Us is giving away mini LEGO Jurassic World gates. For sets like the one seen here, you'll have to pay up.

This promotion is dino-mite!

To get your child hyped to see Jurassic World—not to mention eager to buy Legos and other toys—Toys R Us is hosting a big “Make & Take” Legos event this weekend.

From 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at all Toys R Us locations, kids ages 5 and up are welcomed to build a mini Lego Jurassic World gate and then take it home, free of charge.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know: Toys R Us currently stocks several other brand new Jurassic World Lego sets, and these are most certainly not free.

TIME Lego

Lego Just Apologized for this Offensive Toy Description

Reference to ‘window-licker’ led to a backlash

Global toy brand Lego has had some explaining to do over the description of one of its new toys.

The product, called Turg and part of the company’s Mixels line, is a character with a long tongue and a single eye. Lego described the toy on its website as an “experiment gone wrong.” It continued: “Part frog, part chicken, part back-of-the-bus window-licker, this Mixel has the longest tongue of them all.”

That description has received strong criticism from mental health advocates, according to a BBC report. The news organization said mental health charity leaders were appalled at the offensive phrase (a “window-licker” is a derogatory term for a person with mental disability).

“It is unacceptable that a toy company like Lego have used a term that offends people with a disability such as this, especially as the toy is aimed at children,” a representative from charity Mencap told the BBC. “I have a learning disability and I know that it makes me feel different.”

In a statement to the publication, Fiona Wright, Lego’s vice president for the U.K. and Ireland, said:

Lego Mixels’ aim is to inspire creativity using quirky fictional characters to help children express their imaginations. We have very high expectations of our products. This also includes the text we use to describe them towards consumers. We are sorry that wording which could be considered offensive has been used, as this has not been our intention at all. As an immediate result of the input we have received, the product description for the Mixels character Turg has been changed on our website Lego.com. We have looked at our processes to make sure this does not happen again.

Fortune has reached out to Lego for further comment.

TIME Innnovation

Watch This Robotic Teddy Bear Hug Sick Children in Hospitals

MIT researchers have launched a 90 patient study on the therapeutic value of a moving, blinking, talking toy bear

Huggable, a robotic teddy bear currently making the rounds at Boston Children’s Hospital, is part of a larger study on how interactive toys can alleviate stress and isolation. The New York Times captured footage of the bear at one such patient’s bedside, and her reaction, scientifically speaking, is adorable.

For more on the renaissance of chatty toys, see TIME’s recent coverage of a talking robot that’s vying for the title of smartest toy in the playpen.

TIME Toys

The Big Bang Theory LEGO Set Is Here

Sheldon looks even smarter somehow

If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory and have wanted to hang out in Leonard and Sheldon’s living room, swap physics jokes with Amy and Bernadette, eat Chinese food with Raj and Howard and re-enact all your Penny-Leonard (or Sheldon-Leonard?) slashfic, now is your chance. LEGO has just unveiled its new The Big Bang Theory LEGO set.

The set includes mini-figures of the show’s seven main characters—Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Howard, Raj, Amy, and Bernadette—and enough authentic detail to satisfy even the most Type-A fan. The minifigures of the characters are all dressed in outfits that any fan will recognize, from Sheldon’s Flash t-shirt to Raj’s multi-hued ensemble.

This set comes from LEGO’s popular Ideas crowdsourcing community, the same group of people behind the forthcoming Doctor Who LEGO set and the possible Golden Girls kit. The Big Bang Theory set was created by two LEGO fan designers— Alatariel from Sweden and Glen Bricker from the USA—and selected by LEGO Ideas members.

The Big Bang Theory construction set will cost $59.99 and is expected to be available this summer.

TIME Disney

Disney Plans “Wearable” Toys to Get Kids Off the Couch

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Disney is making a risky bet with its new toys priced at $120 just for a starter kit.

Disney wants kids to wear electronic toys and pretend to be superheroes.

The entertainment company announced plans Tuesday for Playmation, a new line of toys in partnership with Hasbro that are a cross between computers and costumes. The first examples will be Iron Man gloves and Hulk fists based on Disney’s Marvel superhero brand.

Children will be able to use the wearables to interact with other toys in the line. Kids can also follow narrated stories, called “missions” that they can download.

The new toys, which are billed as a way to get children off the couch, are expected to hit the stores in October. Additional Star Wars and Frozen-themed toys are planned for 2016 and 2017 respectively.

The toys will cost $120, with accessories starting at $15. However, it’s unclear how much the additional software will cost.

The new line involves a higher degree of financial risk by Disney than usual because it is developing the necessary toy hardware in-house. If parents are unwilling to spend the extra money on toys, Disney will be out a lot of money.

Disney is also not the first toy company to dabble in “connected toys.” Mattel recently partnered with hardware gadget maker Quirky to create and market toys that make use of contemporary tech trends like sensors.

TIME snapchat

Snapchat Just Released its Most Useless Product Yet

Snapchat Stuffed Animal
Snapchat Snapchat Stuffed Animal

And it's available on Amazon

Who says Snapchat doesn’t have a way to make money?

The instant messaging startup is selling plush toy versions of its impish mascot ghost. And yes, the character has a name: “Ghostface Chillah,” after the Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah.

The specter’s specs? It comes in two sizes: Large ($17.99), and small ($8.99). As their Amazon listings describe:

  • Undead but undeniably cuddly
  • Free spirit
  • An expert at phantomiming
  • Supernatural and super awesome
  • Outer – 100% acrylic; Filling – 100% polyester

“He’s a silly dude,” Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel once told Business Insider, revealing that he drew the freaky phantom himself.

The toy is recommended for people ages 5 years and up. Guess the social media company is building its user pipeline—because remember, kids: “Snapchat is intended for people who are at least 13 years old. Persons under the age of 13 are prohibited from creating Snapchat accounts.” (Via Snapchat’s terms of service.)

For everyone else, there’s SnapKidz, a lightweight version of the app designed for children.

Then again, at the time of writing this post, it looks like the other Amazon customers who viewed the pair of plushies are also interested in recent books about Elon Musk and Bitcoin. So maybe the target demographic skews a bit older.

For a deeper dive into the world of the ephemeral photo-sharing app, read this Snapchat feature from the January 13, 2014 issue of Fortune magazine.

TIME Google

Google’s Plan for a Sci-fi Teddy Bear is Terrifying

USPTO USPTO

Google has patented the idea for a connected stuffed animal that is part toy, part robot

Out of Google’s secretive moon-shot factory may come the scariest toys you’ve ever seen: Internet-connect robots that look like stuffed animals but are essentially fuzzy house servants that take orders from humans and program their other connected devices accordingly.

According to a patent filed by Google’s self-described mad scientist Richard DeVaul and fellow engineer Daniel Aminzade, the company has designed an “anthropomorphic device” that could take the form of a “doll or toy” and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets from computers to DVRs. While the patent was filed in February 2012, it was only published this week.

The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit, but says that the devices could also apply to mythical creatures like dragons and aliens, or even humans themselves. Robots that are “cute” or “toy-like” are best, however, because they appeal to children as well as adults, according to the filing.

Equipped with cameras, microphones, speakers and motors, the toy animals could make eye contact with humans and blink; “straighten or relax” their ears, wiggle their nose, or twitch their tail.

And they could also handle some chores if someone commanded them—say, to turn on a TV to channel 7, pull up a weather report, or blast a playlist of 1960s John Coltrane jazz.

Indeed, the robots could potentially act like a sort of butler or concierge for Google’s growing family of so-called Internet-of-Things devices, such as its Wi-Fi-enabled “smart” thermostat, Nest. The blueprint for the devices references the proliferation of automated systems and “Internet appliances” for the home, including lighting, air conditioning and even window curtains. “Thus, it may be desirable to be able to simplify the management and control of a variety of media devices that may comprise a home entertainment system or a home automation system,” the patent filing states.

But the toy-like robots’ abilities seem to go far beyond functional and into artificial intelligence, potentially standing in for human companions. From the filing:

To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils.

Cute or scary? We may never know, because a Google spokesperson told the BBC it couldn’t confirm whether the product would ever reach the market.

We would have asked DeVaul to comment, but his website is quite clear on what his response would have been:

I’m fortunate enough to have one of the coolest jobs in the tech world. And no, I’m not interested in discussing what I do with anyone outside a very small circle of people I work with. People I don’t talk to about my work include trusted friends and family as well as members of the press, bloggers, etc. I am extraordinarily unlikely to make an exception for you so it will save us both time if you fail to ask.

TIME Travel

This New Legoland Hotel Looks Like It Was Made Entirely of Lego Bricks

Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida

Complete with a disco elevator

It used to be that if a kid went on vacation, they were lucky to get a room at the Courtyard Marriott. Now there are entire hotels devoted to their entertainment. The latest is a Legoland Hotel near Orlando, Fla. made with two million Lego bricks and is topped with a steam-breathing dragon made from Lego.

Each of 152 rooms is decorated in various Lego themes (“pirate,” “kingdom,” etc.) and guests can take a “disco elevator” with flashing lights and “lava tiles,” according to USA Today. Lego fanatics can take lessons from a master builder on putting together complex models.

This is the second Legoland Hotel; the first is in Carlsbad, Calif.

[USA Today]

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com