I spent much of last month discussing many of the STEAM-focused gifts my girls received for Christmas, but there was one that I held off reviewing because although we’d opened it and played with it, it’s not a one-and-done type of project. It’s something that takes some time, and as my nine year-old daughter worked on it, I watched her and took pictures, but I wanted the project to be more complete than not, when I shared it in a blog post. We’re finally getting to that point where she’s almost done, not 100%, but enough where I can share it and you can get the whole picture.
At our house we watch a lot of house hunting/renovating/designing types of shows. We’re big fans of “Love It or List It” and other shows like that. Our youngest daughter in particular has been quite inspired by the house planning and design portions of those types of shows. She’s on the edge of her seat, watching the blueprints take shape and it’s really influenced how she plays and the thing she likes to do in her spare time. She started off this fall, playing with our old Etch-a-Sketch, creating blueprints of imaginary houses, and announced that she’d like to be an engineer when she grows up (she’s also wanted to be a real estate agent, a dog groomer, and a veterinarian in the past, so things could change at any moment, and we get that.)
We know that engineering, like many other math, science and technology jobs, is a career in which women are a minority, and we’ve talked about that with her, but that doesn’t seem to scare her off, at least not so far, which is great. We work hard to keep our kids’ love for these subjects going as they approach their teenage years because we know that it’s often at that time where they get scared away and lose their confidence as compared to males in that same age bracket. We talk a lot about future careers and programs, even at a young age. We’ve already taken her to see the Computer Aided Design department at our local high school’s Career and Technical Center to check out what’s available for her in a few more years. Her mouth dropped when she saw the drafting tables and computer technology available to her there. She was amazed by the 3D houses on display that the students had created. Had she been able to enroll that day at age nine, I think she would’ve signed right up; she was in her glory during that visit. She looked up at the sign that said, “Architectural Engineering” and she said, “That’s me. That’s what I want to be.”
In November last year, as the girls were making their Santa lists, our daughter found a similar kit in a magazine catalog to the Alex brand Scientific Explorer Young Architects kit pictured here, and she put it on her list. At the time, it could be found for $55 on the Walmart website, and ran about $75 in the other catalog where she first saw it.
The kit came with everything she’d need to create a blueprint house design on paper, fill it with furniture and then add walls, windows and doors using plexiglass fixtures, creating an entire 3D house plan. It was very exciting when she opened it on Christmas morning. She was so thrilled and could not wait to get started.
Over the vacation weeks she began
working, using the stencils to lay out her walls and determine what spaces would be which kinds of rooms. That alone, took some time. It was fascinating for me to be a fly on the wall, watching her figure things out, thinking out loud and problem solving as she went along. She worked for hours at a time, several nights in a row, until she had all the rooms drawn out. She asked me for little post it-notes to label each room so she wouldn’t forget what was what when it came time to add in furniture. Picturing the doors for each room as a little half circle was a little confusing for her, so we went into our bedrooms and I showed her how the doors made the half circle marks on the rugs, which on paper would indicate where an actual door would be, and then she got it, adding them in and figuring out in which direction they opened and closed in or out of a room.
The kit included a plexiglass table-top board, extra-large pieces of tracing paper, stencils for outlining the rooms, diagrams for tracing all kinds of furniture, doors and appliances into the rooms, colored pencils for coloring the furniture (we added in a bigger variety of colored pencils), and plexiglass walls of all sizes, along with the cubes to connect them and keep them standing upright, which creates the 3D effect, as is seen at the top of the blog post.
When we had our blizzard last week, she took out her kit and finished up coloring in her furniture and began placing the cubes in the corners of each room so that she could put up her walls. Her house plan currently looks just as the photo shows it at the top of this blog post. I couldn’t be more proud, and more amazed at her work, at the level of the complexity of her thinking, and at her talent. The only step she really has left is to use the included removable decals to add in windows and doors on the walls of her rooms. We can’t wait to see the finished product, and I think she’s already looking forward to having it on display for a little while and then taking it all apart in order to start all over again. Thankfully there are six pieces of tracing paper in the kit so that she can do up to six different house designs before I have to find more paper for her.
I’d highly recommend this Alex Young Architect design kit for all your aspiring young architects and engineers whether they are boys are girls. The kit is moderately priced, and is well stocked with everything they need for hours and hours of creating and designing. It’s been a perfect, perfect STEAM gift for our aspiring female architectural engineer, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.