Fifty Bucks Gets You A Dremel Tool



Or a variable temp soldering iron.  Any real tool is better than this:

This is just yet another feel good attempt to make the entitled feel better about themselves. Rather than breaking gender stereotypes, this magazine is reinforcing them.  I mean, seriously, glitter and glue? That’s Mitchell’s stuff.    The problem is that we have too much Mitchell’s stuff already and not enough “making” stuff.  It’s easy to get glitter and glue.  Just go about a 1/4 mile in my case one way and about a mile in the other way.  Robot parts, not so much. You are hardly going to break gender stereotypes doing the same sort of things that reinforce those stereotypes.

The big problem isn’t that girls don’t have access to STEM, it’s that boys don’t either.  Not so long ago the country was a nation of people who made stuff. Every school had the shop classes and kids had access to the tools in the garage.  Now we seem to have lost that. a while back we had a young man at the switch tower museum volunteering and I realized just how much had been lost.  He was proud of the fact that he had a soldering iron and also related how his fellow students sort of thought that was weird.  How are we going to get kids into the idea of making stuff if they never get a start.

All too much of what we do have is prepackaged.  Even with Lego, it’s more like building a kit, complete with instruction.  Yet one of the enlightening and liberating things in my life was realizing that you can   throw the instructions away and build your own thing.  When I was a kid, construction toys were easily available and plentiful. When I was very little there were tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs.  Later, I think that I got most of my construction toys from the local church sale for spending money.  This was everything from a large set of Kenner build it buildings  to a forty or fifty year old Mechano set.  You don’t see things like that in sales anymore.  Sometime in the 1980’s construction  toys like I was used to went out of style.  That’s without including the slightly more dangerous creepy crawlers, toy soldier molding or vacuum form machine.

Nowadays it’s easy to make bad art in school and almost impossible to make anything real.  That means that kids miss out on an important start to their creativity.  I posted the answer to the question “Is it OK to be both a scientist and an artist? in a previous post.  But it takes determination and practice to do either.  As well as access to the tools and techniques to make things.  But while art has  been always taught in schools the critical skills that in problem solving that you learn from making are not.

It wasn’t always that way.  Check out this post I did from a book I have of projects from the 1930’s.

Now I realize that most of the projects were for adults in that book. Still kids could and did build stuff. The thing is that all the stuff in there is a true challenge.  Which may have been the point. The projects in that book were meant to be achievements. Well that was the 1930’s.  So what about now.  Well now there is Make magazine.

Which actually has a pretty good section for kids projects.

The thing is that the kids need access to stuff to make things and experiment more than they need a magazine with coloring and glitter.  Instead of glitter, try a glue gun and popsicle sticks.

Or matchsticks.

Or foamcore.

The thing to do is get started with real stuff. And have fun.  Especially have fun.  Instead of buying that Kazoo subscription for your girls, buy some tools.  Even dangerous ones, like a knife or three.

And a hot glue gun.

What, the little darlings will cut and burn themselves?  I hope so. Nothing teaches you respect like the odd bleeding or burn.  And how does, “we must keep the girls safe” break down stereotypes.  When it comes to STEM, safe is not where it’s at.  If you want safe, there’s always Girls Life.

You can get a Dremel rotary tool for the price of that wasted magazine subscription



Or a low power soldering station to start on electronics for robots and other fun stuff.

Soldering Station:

Frankly there are lot of tools out there. Adam Savage has a nice list to get you started.

For the coming holiday season there’s this handy gift guide.

I think that there needs to be more availability of stuff that you can use to make more things than just toys to play with.  The country needs a store like Tokyu Hands where people can get all the stuff they need for projects without spending hours or days looking for it.

Having a place like that makes it so much easier to build stuff.  The easier it is to have access to the stuff you need to do creative the faster and easier it is to do that creative work.  Which makes everybody better off.  Here’s some girls who break the stereotypes, starting with Simone Giertz

Followed by two young ladies at my old stomping grounds at Jefferson Lab.


As far as I’m concerned the best way to breakdown stereotypes is to ignore them. Yes people will try to behave like they think that they are supposed to.  But that’s their choice. I think that, with certain exceptions that imposing your views on kids especially is just wrong, like that recent case where the teacher took the Lego away from the boys who wanted to play with it and gave them to the girls who generally did not. It’s as much wrong to force the girls to paly with the Lego as it is to take them away from the boys.  Ultimately you can’t change human nature and millions were killed in the last century proving that.  Of course the romanticized elites that start magazines like “Kazoo” will never understand that.  They also don’t understand making and are actually reinforcing the very stereotypes that they are supposedly supposed to be breaking down, all in an attractive package just like the thousands of similar magazines that have come and gone.  But media types never seem to learn from others experience.



  1. Sam L. · September 13, 2016

    I note the Kazoo request shows a raft with the cross-pieces lashed on below the decking. Hey, boys and girls, can you say “drag”. What about “a really bad idea”? “Someone unskilled in raft-building”?

    SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! Is that a Barbie Doll in the last photo? Girl got SMARTS.


    • jccarlton · September 13, 2016

      What got to me was that that raft was the most advanced thing to make in the magazine. The rest was all coloring, glitter and glue.


  2. Stan Witherspoon · September 13, 2016

    For making cool stuff that flies out of dollar store foam board, check out


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