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MIT student blogger Alexa J. '20

Lego Heroines by Alexa J. '20

interview with the amazing Maia Weinstock!

If you haven’t been following the results of the most recent LEGO Ideas competition, let me fill you in. MIT’s very own Maia Weinstock recently won (!!) with a set of extraordinary women in NASA. Maia is currently the deputy editor for MIT news and also helps manage MIT’s social media accounts, so if you ever find yourself laughing at a funny MIT tweet, you can thank her.

She has been busy interviewing around the U.S. and even in South America, but she managed to squeeze in some time for an interview for us! Listen to the full interview here:

I hoped you enjoyed me fumbling to turn off the recorder in the last few seconds. Despite going to a tech school, I still encounter many a technical difficulty. Here are some of my favorite excerpts from the interview:

About her initial LEGO projects before the Women in NASA set
“I kind of wanted it to be this fun photo project where you not only could see the LEGO minifigures but also connect it to people’s Twitter accounts because so few people can actually name a living scientist. I wanted to help counter that a little bit by saying, ‘Here’s this cool LEGO picture, and by the way, you can follow this person on Twitter and learn about their interesting lives.”

About when you can find them in stores
“LEGO is currently tweaking the design that I had and making it their own. They will announce what the final look will be––I don’t even know when. But they will be on sale but it won’t be until the end of this year or early 2018.”

What’s in the set she submitted to the contest
“The idea of the set is to celebrate women in NASA generally…I decided to try and work on people who were somewhat iconic and/or had contributed greatly in a way that people would be surprised about… I started with Sally Ride. Most people know her as the first American woman in space. She did that feat in 1983…She was an astronaut and worked in NASA for a number of years, and then she also started an organization that helps encourage kids, especially girls, to go into STEM fields.



I also picked Mae Jemison, who was the first African American woman in space…She is also amazing. She left NASA shortly after her first flight, and has done a lot of other things. I think she had a couple of organizations that she’s worked on and for. So she is kind of this amazing serial entrepreneur, and she is a doctor…With Sally and Mae, I created a miniature space shuttle.



The one MIT connection is Margaret Hamilton. She was the leader of the programming for the Apollo guidance system, for the first mission in 1969 and then also the subsequent missions…[The code that she and her team developed] is as tall as she is and printed on paper because computers were a lot less fancy than they are now…I recreated [her standing next to her code] in this vignette of her in LEGO.



I made also…Katherine Johnson, who many of you probably know is one of the hidden figures from the film and book that just came out…She was a long time mathematician and physicist with NASA. She is best known for the trajectories she worked on for the Mercury program and the subsequent programs, like the Apollo and I think she did work on the space shuttle program a little bit. Her little vignette is her sitting at her desk calculating trajectories with a globe and some computer systems next to her and a little mini rocket.



Finally, I didn’t only want to do people in the space flight program, even though that was a little bit of the focus but I also wanted to include someone––so few people know who she is but she really deserves to be better known––her name is Nancy Grace Roman…She is known as the mother of Hubble. She was one of the leading drivers behind the development and the planning and the making of the Hubble Space Telescope, and she also was the one who started NASA’s astronomy program. She was this major figure for many years at NASA.”

Here’s a picture of the complete set:

As a children’s writer as well, she wants to encourage young girls to pursue STEM in clubs and competitions to bond with those with similar interests but also explore their passions. If you’d like to view some more of her creations, you can visit her Flickr album here to see famous scientists and other historical figures posing with their claim to fame.

As an added treat, here’s a LEGO version of Daniela Rus, the Director of CSAIL, one of many powerhouse women doing incredible things at MIT.