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Bravo to LEGO®

By: , Posted on: June 19, 2014

AQ2In early June, the LEGO Corporation made an exciting YouTube announcement, naming the winner of the Winter 2014 LEGO® Review. The Female Minifigure Set, an idea actually put forth for the Fall 2013 LEGO® Review was determined to be the winner!

Swedish geochemist Alatariel Elensar (a.k.a. Ellen Kooijman) proposed the idea, suggesting that “a small set of minifigures would provide a great opportunity to add women to our LEGO® town or city communities.”

This has been a long time coming for LEGO®. In September 2013, the female scientist minifigure was introduced. Many believe this was in response to a general outcry for female minifigures that did not fit a gender stereotype. Still, this one wasn’t enough for LEGO®  fans.

One of the most popular complaints came from 7-year-old Charlotte. (See letter below.)

CharlotteIt seems that LEGO®  took Charlotte’s advice in choosing Ellen Kooijman’s contest entry. Here is the full vision from Ellen:

“I have designed some professional female minifigures that also show that girls can become anything they want, including a paleontologist or an astronomer. Being a geochemist myself the geologist and chemist figures are based on me 🙂

The motto of these Scientists is clear: explore the world and beyond! The Astronomer discovers new stars and planets with the telescope, the Paleontologist studies the origin of the dinosaurs and the Chemist does experiments in the laboratory.”

LEGO®  will produce a minifigure set of these three female scientists – an astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist. Entitled “Research Institute,” this set will be available in August 2014!

Note: Kooijman designed 9 additional figures, as well, though those were not chosen for this set: Robotics Engineer, Falconer, Geologist, Zookeeper, Judge, Mail Carrier, Mechanic, Firefighter, and Construction Worker. For more from Kooijman, take a look at this Q&A.


LEGO Scientists

Q&A with Dr. Pamela McCauley

What do you think of this new product? 

The “Research Institute” mini-set from LEGO is an outstanding addition to the LEGO®  collection.  The female scientist figures are useful for introducing the concept of a STEM career (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to girls at an early age. It is vital to reach children as young as possible and toys can provide knowledge, examples and direct interaction with STEM related concepts and role models.  

What does this mean to women in the STEM fields? 

The addition of a female astronomer, a female paleontologist, and a female chemist as LEGO®  figurines means that women in the STEM fields are not necessarily seen anymore as anomalies.  Integrating women in STEM into our children’s perspectives makes it easier for both girls and boys to envision women as STEM professionals. 

Is this a step in the right direction? What more needs to change? 

Given the current statistics of STEM professionals, it is imperative that we do all we can throughout the academic pipeline to engage and encourage women in STEM Careers. Currently, only 14% of engineers are women, according to the Congressional Joint Economic Committee and yet we’re 51% of the population and workforce. I consider this move by LEGO®  to be useful in engaging young girls to have an interest in STEM careers.

I’d love to see a set of “Engineering Role Models” that explores and explains the different engineering branches (industrial, mechanical, electrical, computer science, etc.) and the possibilities these careers hold and the differences these professionals can make to their communities and the world.

Diversity is important and we should also see ethnic diversity – one of the beautiful things about LEGOS is that the people are different colors – so African American, Hispanic, Native American and Asian children can also identify with these toys.  Maybe the next LEGO®  should be scientist with a Disability? The X-Men have already got us off to a great start with Professor X!  

Bravo to LEGO®  for this exciting addition to their collection of toys that have already touched the lives of so many children.

Prof Pamela McCauleyAbout Dr. Pamela McCauley

Dr. Pamela McCauley is a nationally recognized speaker, an award winning educator, and a full Professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Systems at the University of Central Florida where she leads the Human Factors in Disaster Management Research Team.

Dr. McCauley became the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Engineering in the state of Oklahoma. From there, she went on to become a Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at M.I.T. Today, she is a full professor of engineering and according to the National Science Foundation, one of only a handful of African American women in the nation to hold this title.

Dr. McCauley has received numerous awards (Engineer of the Year, The Distinguished Alumni Award,  Engineering Educator of the Year, Fulbright Specialist Award and the Women Making a Difference Award, to name a few) in recognition of her professional accomplishments and community outreach efforts in the business, technology and education communities.

She is the author of Ergonomics: Foundational Principles, Applications, and Technologies,a textbook that is used on college campuses around the world and is based on Dr. McCauley’s almost two decades of teaching.She recently authored Transforming Your STEM Career Through Leadership and Innovation, a research-based book on successful leadership strategies and principles. Her personal story of facing adversity to pursue her educational goals is told in her book; “Winners Don’t Quit . . .Today They Call Me Doctor.”


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