Lego® has announced that they will be honoring five female NASA pioneers with a new “Women of NASA” Lego set. The idea beat out 11 other projects in the “Lego Ideas” competition, and the set will likely be released sometime in 2018. Dr. Amy Fleischer, Professor and Chair of Villanova University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and an advocate for advancing women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, wrote previously for U.S. News & World Report about how a Women of NASA Lego set could inspire future generations of female scientists in the opinion piece, Legos Are Among the Building Blocks of STEM.
“I can’t emphasize how important this Lego set is. These Lego mini-figures help make these talented women accessible to young girls who can now picture themselves in roles that they perhaps never even knew existed,” Fleischer said. “To be able to build and play and interact in imaginative play with these figures is critical in girls understanding ‘This path is for you.’”
Fleischer emphasized the importance of female role models in the sciences to her own career development. When she was growing up Fleischer said she didn’t know many other girls who shared her fascination with rocket ships and astronauts. But, seeing Sally Ride become the first American woman in space when she was 13-years-old helped Fleischer realize that she too could follow her interests in spaceflight. This ultimately led to her career as a mechanical engineer in which she works with materials suited for space transportation.
“Representation has been shown to be critical in drawing underrepresented groups into new areas, and the idea that young girls, and particularly, young girls of color, now have these accessible role models is incredible. I hope that 10 years from now we see a large ‘Hidden Figures’ spike in college STEM enrollments,” Fleischer said.
Fleischer has been highly involved at Villanova in creating a supportive environment and opportunities to open up doors for girls interested in STEM careers. As a contributor to U.S. News & World Report, she writes about the importance of expanding STEM opportunities for girls, and has led the organization of events on campus such as the upcoming “Engineering is for Girls Day” on March 25. The event will welcome the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania for hands-on activities intended to teach them how they can change the world through science.
To learn more about Villanova’s commitment to women in engineering, visit the College website.