For parents who have been waiting for that one toy to get their girls into STEM, LEGO is about to make dreams come true later this year. After the success of Hidden Figures and a spark in interest from girls everywhere to get into space and STEM, there was no denying that a project proposal from Maia Weinstock offered a fun, playful look into the women who “played critical roles throughout the history of the U.S. space program,” and was well worth creating. The Women of NASA project not only highlights five notable women, but reams of code that put astronauts on the moon, a microscale Hubble Space Telescope, a mini space shuttle, and more.
It shouldn’t take LEGO to prove to the world that women are just as amazing at STEM as men. In fact, in 1935, NASA’s precursor (NACA) hired five women to be their first computer pool. Hidden Figures profiles some of the women who helped crunch the numbers that put people like John Glenn into orbit. There’s Williamina Fleming who classified over 10,000 stars using a scheme she devised. Even President Trump recently passed the INSPIRE Act to promote STEM fields for women and girls – it requires NASA to get in front of girls K-12 who are studying science, technology, engineering, mathematics.
It’s just that, traditionally, these types of careers are held by men. As of 2016, 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce was women. Women only made up 15 percent of the engineering workforce last year, and only 25 percent of the computer and mathematical science arenas. The Women of NASA set has hopes of being inspirational for girls everywhere, and even boys. Girls can see that women are and have been an integral part in space exploration. Boys can begin internalizing that aeronautics and similar careers are held by everyone.
To be picked up by LEGO, the set had to reach 10,000 supporters on the LEGO Ideas page and then went through a LEGO Review Board of designers, product managers, and other key company members. On February 28, the set was picked up as the next LEGO Ideas set and will be released once final design, pricing, and release date are set by the company. Until then, parents can pump up their kids for the release by teaching them a little bit about the women included in the set.
Margaret Hamilton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work on Apollo 11 – you know, the one that put people on the moon!
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space and she got to work the robotic arm on a space shuttle mission.
Nancy Grace Roman created the first astronomical program and has received countless accolades. She even won the Women in Aerospace’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mae Jemison was the first African-American female astronaut and the first African-American woman in space.
Katherine Johnson did trajectory analysis on the first American human spaceflight and is most known for her work on John Glenn’s orbital mission. She’s also who Hidden Figures follows along most closely.