Women's History Month

LEGO Celebrates The Power Of Women With Figures Honoring Female NASA Greats

"Every additional product where you add more female characters is a small step forward."

It's Women's History Month and one famous toy company is getting in on the female-empowerment fun by highlighting the lady trailblazers of NASA.

A fan idea created the building blocks for LEGO's newly designed set paying homage to the women of NASA. But Maia Weinstock, the deputy editor at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) News, isn't just a fan of LEGO, she loves creating mini figures, especially of scientists and engineers, a hobby she's indulged in for the past seven years.  

Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

"I was first inspired by a mini figure I'd seen of Ada Lovelace," she told A Plus about seeing a tiny figurine of the British mathematician, who was considered to have written instructions for the first computer program in the mid 1800s.

"I thought it would be a great idea to try and make mini figures highlighting living scientists, so I figured out how to make one in the likeness of a friend of mine, planetary scientist Carolyn Porco," Weinstock continued. "She loved it, and I decided to make a few more, and my collection has steadily grown since then."

Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

Weinstock's concept for the Women of NASA project was intended to inspire and educate, so she selected five women who have made an impact at NASA and the STEM fields overall. Mae Jemison is an astronaut and the first African-American woman to travel in space; Margaret Hamilton, who worked at MIT under contract with NASA in the 1960s, and was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2016; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space in 1983; Nancy Grace Roman, who is also known as the "Mother of Hubble" for her efforts in making the Hubble Space Telescope after joining NASA in 1959; and Katherine Johnson, an African-American physicist and mathematician, who was recently portrayed by Taraji P. Henson in the award-winning film Hidden Figures and, at 98-years-young, was honored on stage at the Academy Awards in February by the actress, and co-stars Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer.

"I think people really identify with the iconic LEGO mini figure, so when they see actual, known individuals portrayed as minifigs, it becomes a special kind of tribute," Weinstock said.

Before the tribute was created Weinstock submitted the design idea to the LEGO ideas blog last year, and was tasked with obtaining 10,000 votes in support of the concept.

Katherine Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Katherine Johnson; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

"You get up to two years to make it to 10K, but my project got there in 15 days," she recalled about the votes needed to move onto the LEGO Ideas Review stage of the project.

On February 28, to Weinstock's complete surprise, LEGO officially accepted the project.

"They'd said in an email that they had some 'clarification questions' they wanted to ask me, but in fact, as soon as the meeting started they told me that was just an excuse to get me onto the video conference, and that Women of NASA was going to be the next LEGO Ideas official set!" she said.

She adds, "I'll admit to tearing up a bit — it was a little surreal … I find out from the team in Denmark that after all the planning and promotion, my set was going to actually be made."

Sally Ride and Mae Jemison; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Sally Ride and Mae Jemison; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

Other than sharing the exciting news with her family, Weinstock was sworn to secrecy until the official announcement was made a few weeks ago. Now, she can shout to the rooftops about her accomplishment and what it really means to her.

"I think every additional product, every toy, every book, every game, every movie where you add more female characters is a small step forward," she said proudly. "The histories of so many pioneering women in the STEM fields are completely unknown to most, which is a shame."

Margaret Hamilton; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Margaret Hamilton; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

"We still live in a world where girls and women are still not encouraged to do technical things in the same way boys are, and that begins with the toys they play with as kids," Weinstock continued. "My hope is that children will learn about the incredible engineers and scientists featured in my LEGO set, and maybe even want to be them someday. I would love to know that, in 25 or 30 years, the first woman to walk on Mars — or an engineer or programmer who helped get her there — was inspired by the set."

Nancy Grace Roman; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock
Nancy Grace Roman; Photo Courtesy of Maia Weinstock

For now, Weinstock has great advice for girls interested in pursuing a profession in the STEM fields, which includes joining clubs or activities, finding a mentor, and taking advantage of free online educational courses that many colleges and universities, like MIT, offers.

"All you need is an internet connection — or a library card, if you don't have your own computer — and time," she said. "And, of course, know that you can do it. You do belong! You are good enough!"

(H/T: Design Boom)

LEGOs can inspire all kinds of kids, as proven in the below video:

More From A Plus

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.