Meet LEGO's "Women of NASA"
March is Women’s History Month. Why not celebrate with this LEGO set. It is the Women of NASA set. The set was a winning idea. It won the LEGO Ideas competition. It will honor female astronauts. It honors female mathematicians. And it will honor other female pioneers of the space program.
Ben Westcott works at CNN. He reports that the winning concept was designed by Maia Weinstock. She is deputy editor of MIT News. Her proposed set has five mini figurines. They are all of great NASA women.
It has Margaret Hamilton. She was a software engineer. She programmed guidance and navigation systems. They were for the Apollo missions. The set has Katherine Johnson. She is a mathematician. She was one of the women depicted in the movie Hidden Figures. The set has Nancy Grace Roman. She is the “Mother of the Hubble Telescope.”
The set has Sally Ride. She was the first American woman in space. Mae Jemison is in the set. She is the first African-American female in space. The set has a mini Space Shuttle. It has a tiny Hubble. It also has other props.
“We’re really excited to be able to introduce Maia’s Women of NASA set. It has an inspirational value as well as a build and play experience,” a spokesperson for LEGO told ABC News. The company says it hopes the toys will help inspire young girls. It shows girls that they can look at careers in STEM. In science. In technology. In engineering. And in math.
The selection of the NASA set has another purpose. It is part of an ongoing effort to address complaints that LEGO’s figures don’t show women enough. It started with a 2014 viral letter. It was from a 7-year-old. Her name is Charlotte. She told the company that their female figurines were lame. “All the girls did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop. They had no jobs. But the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.”
“I want you to make more lego girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun ok!?! from Charlotte. Thank you.”
LEGO had a response. They launched a limited-edition Research Institute Set. It had a female paleontologist. It had a female astronomer. And it had a female chemist. That set sold out very quickly.
Weinstock is now 39. She told LEGO in an interview that she played with the toys while growing up. This was in the 1980s. But it wasn’t until 2009 when she made a customized mini-figurine. She made it for a friend. Her friend is a scientist. That's when she got deeper into the toys.
She began making customized figurines. They were of other scientists. She posted photos of them online. “I also began trying to meet up with scientists and engineers after I make a minifigure of them. It’s always amusing to see their reaction,” she says.
“I’ve said before, and it’s really true, that I feel like Santa Claus when this happens. That's because even the most well-regarded, world-renowned scientists and engineers light up like a kid on Christmas when they see their minifig in person.”
Weinstock’s idea for Women of NASA uses 291 LEGO pieces. People can build the figurines. They can build their offices. They can build telescopes. And they can build spacecraft. Her designs are not final. The company developed the final product. The runner-up in the competition was a Voltron set. LEGO says it may also make that set.