It is human nature to avoid competitions that are stacked against us. Since girls (as well as Hispanics, Blacks, and low-income children) grow up with less experience playing computer games, building with construction blocks and using hand tools, is it any wonder that it's hard to get them interested in contests rooted in comfort with those skills?
Surveys of Gizmo Garden students reveal that the non-competitive nature of our programs is key to a gender-balanced sense of belonging. We've had robots sense each other's positions so that they can form a Gizmo Parade, we've had robots pass water from one to another in a Gizmo Water Park, and we've had gizmos pass a beam of light from one gizmo to the next to play Gizmo Tag. Our foundational partner, Skidompha Library, this spring launched it's own Gizmo Sprouts program with a curriculum enabling students to 3D print "pets" and then add electronics for flashing eyes and wagging tails.
Without the disadvantages that less-experienced students face in races, obstacle courses, or other competitions, both genders find Gizmo Garden to be a safe place to explore. We hope that the Gizmo Garden Fund will empower other non-competitive technology learning environments to blossom.