Tech Column: Learning STEMs from fun

Amazon is launching a new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) Club subscription service for monthly STEM related toys. For $20 a month, Amazon delivers “hand selected” educational toys geared towards entertaining and educating children in STEM subjects.

The program features three different subscriptions, each aimed at a different age: they are for children ages three to four, five to seven years, and eight to 13 year olds. Currently, it is limited to the U.S. and restricted to one subscription per buyer.

Regardless of intent, it is important to recognize that toys can have significant influence in the development of children. According to a 2015 report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), stereotypes about gender roles and technology can start to form in children as young as three, which are gathered from the people and objects surrounding them.

This is not the first STEM subscription aimed at children—Genius Box, StemBox and Tinker Crate focused exclusively on bringing subscription STEM-focused toys to children. However, Amazon offers the cheapest option of them all. STEM Club serves to continue the retailer’s efforts to capitalize on parents’ desires for educational toys; in 2015, the Amazon launched its STEM Toys and Games Store to present other similar products. Once a subscription is purchased, recently launched or Amazon-exclusive STEM toys like Snap Circuits or Smart Cars will arrive each month to subscribers, with the subscription automatically renewing itself.

It is a savvy move on the retailer’s part—it continues to capitalize parents’ interest to encourage learning through STEM toys, fueled by reports such as the recently released Glassdoor report, which highlights several of the lucrative job opportunities available in the STEM field. Recognizing the profitability of the STEM toy trend—STEM toys had the highest sales volumes in the holidays—Amazon seeks to find a recurring revenue stream. The hope is for customers to purchase the subscription services, before customers then forget about while it automatically renews itself. One would imagine that if the STEM Club toy subscription is popular, the retailer would expand other toy or STEM related subscription services.

Encouraging children of minorities who are under-represented in the STEM workforce—women, African Americans and Latinos—to engage with STEM toys could inspire those youth to pursue future careers in STEM in the future and help eliminate the lack of diversity in the science and math fields today. These simple yet fun STEM toys may equalize future demographics and push development of these fields for a better future.