LEGO fans of all ages will soon have four more famous female scientists to add to their collection. On Tuesday, the company announced a new Women of NASA LEGO set featuring astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, and iconic astronauts Sally Ride and Mae Jemison.
Along with the four figurines, the 231-piece Women of NASA LEGO set also includes buildable mini-dioramas paying homage to each of the women’s areas of expertise. You’ll be able to build a posable Hubble Space Telescope for astronomer Nancy Grace Roman. You can also assemble a stack of books representing computer scientist Margaret Hamilton’s work on the Apollo Guidance Computer. With this set, you can also create a LEGO replica of the Space Shuttle Challenger to accompany mini Mae Jemison and Sally Ride. Each set also comes with a booklet that features the stories of each NASA scientist as well as information about the science writer Maia Weinstock who inspired the set’s design. The complete set will be available to purchase November 1 for $24.99,
LEGO’s new set is sure to inspire a new generation of girls in STEM jobs and help teach kids of all genders about the accomplishments of these incredible women. “Build, play, learn and one day you too could become a science, technology, engineering or mathematics superstar!” the company’s press release for Women in NASA states.
However, the set is missing one key figure: NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson. Weinstock’s initial proposal, which first appeared on the LEGO Ideas page back in July 2016, included Johnson in the proposed Women in NASA set. As Gizmodo reports, Johnson—known for calculating trajectories for the Apollo and Mercury programs and who was recently featured in the movie Hidden Figures—was unable to be included in the final set design as they couldn’t get permission to use her likeness. “In order for us to move forward with a partner we need to obtain approval from all key people, which was not possible in this case,” a representative for LEGO told Gizmodo. “We naturally fully respect this decision.”
Since her initial proposal, Weinstock’s idea has been well-received by scientists and LEGO-fanatics alike. In August of 2016, over 10,000 supporters backed the idea, leading to LEGO’s eventual approval of the project. Pharrell Williams and Janelle Monáe were among celebrities who tweeted about the Women of NASA Lego set, showing their support since the idea’s inception. Since LEGO’s announcement on Tuesday, everyone from former “Mythbusters” co-host Adam Savage to actor and activist Alyssa Milano have shared their excitement over the new set.
Women remain underrepresented in STEM jobs, and those who do pursue careers in STEM fields continue to face disproportionate discrimination. Current statistics show that women drop out of STEM subjects at a higher rate than male students. That low retention rate can be attributed to multiple external factors that primarily affect women, like societal expectations of jobs “best suited” for women. It could also be attributed to the overwhelming statistics on sexual harassment women in STEM face. One survey found that 60 percent of women in tech say that have experienced sexual harassment while at work.
According to a study from earlier this year, one solution to keep female students in STEM subjects is woman-to-woman mentorship. While the sample size was small, that study (focusing on engineering students) found that women who received career mentorship from another woman were significantly more likely to continue pursuing engineering.
The introduction of female mentorship can start small. Like, LEGO figure-sized small. Showing kids of all genders (and adults, too, for that matter) examples of successful women in these fields help continue to establish it as a norm rather than an anomaly.