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Soundbites: have your say.

The engineering Barbie doll designed to encourage girls into the sector has been criticised. The products that Barbie is suggesting girls should build are stereotypically female, or domestic, items--a washing machine and a dress rack, coloured pink. What toys you played with when growing up inspired you to go into engineering?

I always enjoyed fixing the toys that broke, or finding out how they worked, more than the toy itself. My bike got used and abused the most, which I guess was my inspiration.

Jamie Davies, Llantrisant

I can't recall playing with engineering-oriented toys, and I had no patience for Airfix kits. I started liking engineering when I got to make a circuit board and solder on all the components at school at the age of 14. Then using a pillar drill, learning technical drawing, writing code and using integrated circuits. Forget toys, focus on schools.

Iggy Pont Lezica, Guildford, Surrey

Creating bridges using plasticine was a challenge. Later, tuning my mother's lawnmower to proceed at a running pace was inspiring. This activity was initially welcome because the lawn was mown quickly but not so appreciated when the engine exploded!

Tim Bagnall, Lewes, Sussex

I had a wonderful wooden and plastic construction set called Bilofix. It allowed me to make gears, helicopters, cranes, cars and trains. I constantly played with the toy from the age of five to 12. No matter how much electronics you have, there will always be the need to make things that go round and round and up and down. Children of all genders would get joy from such a toy given the right encouragement.

Michael Reid, Peterborough

Meccano, followed by a yard full of farm machinery, then I moved onto car engines. But what I call "a toy" the next person may call an "oily dirty thing" each to their own.

Russell Birnie, Sawley

Just after the war, families were more self-reliant, so I saw a resourceful scientific dad make stuff, including my toys. It was also the time of record-breaking vehicles, so the background was set to encourage engineering in a small boy, who built, then designed model aircraft, pulled his bike to pieces, experimented with explosives, and went to Farnborough. Small wonder I did an apprenticeship at de Havilland. Best thing I ever did.

Chris Jones, Hilton, Derby

I sense you have misunderstood the secret of marketing/selling; first catch the attention of your target customer, then show them that it relates to them. So, full marks to Mattel! Picture the scenario--little girl plays with pink Barbie the engineer, then "Mummy, Daddy, I want to make one for myself! "--make up the rest of the story yourselves. This is one move in the right direction. But there is never only one answer, it needs to be one of hundreds.

Stefan Shillington, Kenilworth

I played with the toy cars my mother bought me, which she did to make up for the fact that her brothers would not let her play with theirs when she was growing up. There was also the inevitable Lego and Airfix, and my Sindy doll had to (wo)man up, don combat fatigues and drive a tank with my brother's Action Man!


The things that most inspired my engineering mind were not toys at all, but real household objects: an old telephone, an alarm clock, a discarded valve from the heating boiler. As a teenager, even a few dysfunctional washing machines (though not the pink variety) found their way into my hands, to be fixed and returned to service.

Gary Wood, East Kilbride

Simple Matchbox cars and lots of cardboard to build scenarios from my own imagination.

Graeme Hughes, Rhayader

My battery-powered train set was my favourite toy. I am glad that more effort is being made to get girls into engineering but the "girly" stereotypes that this Barbie has will not help! How about a Barbie with a variety of items to work with and a regular-coloured uniform? That shouldn't be difficult!

Lynn Harvey, Massachusetts

Sad, but entirely predictable that there is such criticism, which entirely misses the point. Career decisions are not made at the age when children play with dolls, but giving them an awareness of machines and technical issues at an early age prepares them for later life and, more importantly, gives them the opportunity to develop their interests and decide what "toys" they would like in future.

Richard Hulmes, London
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Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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