Who among you knows an 8-year-old girl? Or a 12-year-old boy, or a 47-year-old woman — or anybody for whom small, angular pieces of plastic aren't a choking hazard? Because Danish toy brick icon Lego has just announced Women of NASA Lego set will be in stores soon, so three cheers for inspirational science toys based on real-life pioneers.
Each year, Lego accepts submissions from the public, inviting anybody with a concept to submit ideas for a new Lego set to be produced and sold commercially (with the designer receiving 1 percent of the profit from sales). The Lego Ideas website runs a public contest for each new round of submissions, and Lego fans from around the world vote on their favorite ideas. Once a project has 10,000 votes, it passes along to the Lego Ideas review board, which chooses the winning concept for that review cycle. The themes of these projects are varied: the Women of NASA proposal was chosen over a red Lamborghini, a "Little House on the Prairie" log cabin, a vehicle from the comedy film "Spaceballs," and an homage to the first computer built by Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, among others.
The member of the Lego public who proposed and designed the Women of NASA set is Maia Weinstock, a science writer and Lego enthusiast who used the Lego Ideas contest to recognize some of the women who have made NASA's space exploration possible — all of whom struggled to gain acceptance in a field historically dominated by white men.
"This proposed set celebrates five notable NASA pioneers and provides an educational building experience to help young ones and adults alike learn about the history of women in STEM," wrote Weinstock in her Lego Ideas proposal.
The women commemorated in this set include:
- Margaret Hamilton, the computer scientist who developed the idea of computer software as we know it today, and created the flight software in the Apollo missions to the moon.
- Katherine Johnson, the NASA mathematician (played by Taraji P. Henson in last year's film "Hidden Figures") who calculated the trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo programs, including Apollo 11.
- Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.
- Nancy Grace Roman, one of the first female NASA executives, often called "The Mother of the Hubble Telescope" for her enormous contributions to that project.
- Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman in space.
These tiny space ladies will come with a display frame, but also vignettes showing the reams of code that landed the first man on the moon, a tiny Hubble Telescope, mini rocket boosters, and other cool stuff.
To find out when the Women of NASA set will be available, follow its progress on Twitter at @LegoNASAWomen.