Interview – Scott Evans
Posted February 14, 2012on:
Scott Evans is the lead designer of the annual game for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (ages 9-14). After their dozen years of trying to hook young girls into science and engineering, we picked at Scott’s mind to learn any interesting findings that would be relevant for us.
- Confirmed what we had previously gathered about girls: they like/respond to stories, animals, color, and style. However, one interesting thing to note was that “of course everyone likes animals, but girls tend toward nurturing more fluidly than boys do.” It isn’t only that girls like animals for their cuteness, but the nurturing side of girls adds to the appeal animals have to them.
- In the LEGO league for ages 9-14, the ratio of boys to girls is 5 to 3. In the younger age group (ages 6-9), the ratio is pretty close to 50/50. This confirms our belief that this is the age group to target before social pressures begin to steer girls away from science and engineering. Additionally, they observed that “the age of 13 is when girls start to have a diminished interest in math and science on average.”
- Integrating animals into the games can be as easy as simply placing animals on the field, but “it’s better if I put the animals in the position to be cared for, protected, or saved,” once again referencing the nurturing side of girls.
- In terms of using stories to hook girls into the game, he bring the missions into context. For example, instead of making a mission “to get the ball off the shelf,” a better way to phrase it is “get the person out of the burning building.” Furthermore, the best thing he can say is “get Marcy, 22, who just got married, and her kitten, to safety.” The added details to the stories makes the games more tangible to girls.
- Perhaps the best response they ever had to a game was about “identifying with people with disabilities, and coming up with ways to improve their lives.” On the other hand, the worst they ever had was about nanotechnology. While both games involved designing and programming a robot to complete an obstacle course, one fit much easier under a “feel-good umbrella.”