Tag Archives: lego

LEGO “Research Institute” features women in science

LEGO made a nice little splash when they introduced a female scientist figure a little while ago, and they’ve chosen to produce a pretty neat set as a followup:

We’re very excited to release Ellen Kooijman’s Female Minifigure set, featuring 3 scientists, now entitled “Research Institute” as our next LEGO Ideas set. This awesome model is an inspiring set that offers a lot for kids as well as adults. The final design, pricing and availability are still being worked out, but it’s on track to be released August 2014. For more information, see the LEGO Ideas Blog.

"Research Institute" LEGO set, including three female scientists: the Astronomer, the Paleontologist, and the Chemist

“Research Institute” LEGO set, including three female scientists: the Astronomer, the Paleontologist, and the Chemist

Here’s a link to the LEGO ideas project. But what I found even more interesting is designer Ellen Kooijman’s blog post about the design of the set:

I had been building with LEGO bricks for 10 years since coming out of my Dark Age (LEGO-devoid period), but I had never shared any of my creations online. This project was going to be the first creation I ever shared with people other than my husband. The idea for the project came very naturally and the question how I came up with it always makes me smile. As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available LEGO sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures. It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female minifigures in interesting professions to make our LEGO city communities more diverse.

As a geochemist I started with designs close to my own profession, a geologist and a chemist, and then expanded the series to include other sciences and other professions. Support rates in the first weeks after posting were slow, but at some point it started to pick up speed and many people left positive comments on the project, which encouraged me to expand and develop the project. I designed 12 little vignettes in total that consist of a minifigure with a 6×4 base plate and a corresponding setting to enhance the building experience and stimulate creativity. When designing the vignettes I tried to add things that would also make them attractive to people not necessarily interested in female figures. Especially the dinosaur skeleton turned out to be a real winner that is popular with a variety of people ranging from teenage boys, to parents, to AFOLs, etc. It is easy to imagine a different setting where the skeleton may come alive chasing the minifig or it could stimulate more building, for example a museum where it can be displayed.

Her other career women vignettes are also pretty awesome. I hope that some someday LEGO will consider producing those as well. Here’s a second science-y set to whet your appetites:

More scientist LEGO: Falconer with two birds, Geologist with compass and hammer in the field & Robotics Engineer designing a robot arm

More scientist LEGO: Falconer with two birds, Geologist with compass and hammer in the field & Robotics Engineer designing a robot arm

Visit the LEGO ideas page or the blog post about the sets to see the others!

Open thread: Lego prosthetic leg

Hello again! Welcome to another open thread for comments on any subject fitting our policy!

Feature item for this open thread is Video: My Legoleg – amputee prosthetic leg made with Lego bricks by occupational therapist Christina Stephens.

Final reminder to (re-)follow us on Twitter! Our new, working, Twitter handle is @GeekFeminismOrg (follow); we’ve permanently lost access to @geekfeminism.

About open threads: open threads are for comments on any subject at all, including past posts, things we haven’t posted on, what you’ve been thinking or doing, etc as long as it follows our comment policy. We’re always looking for fluffy, fun, silly, cute or beautiful open thread starters, please post links to Pinboard with the “gffun” tag.

Chainmail (European 4 in 1 pattern)

and you will know us by the trail of linkspam (22nd May, 2012)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.


Featured Image Credit: ‘Abstract’ Chainmail – Uploaded by UCL Engineering on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Lego for Girls used to build a spaceship All rights reserved by Nannan Z.

Lego for girls can be awesome

I was just waiting for something like this to show up since the moment the latest “lego for girls” was announced:

Pixie Poison

Nannan reminds us that just like any other Lego kits, it’s only a matter of time before the kids take it apart and build something way cooler. Read the review of the new sets that goes with this picture on The Brothers Brick, or check out more photos of the creation.

Old Lego advertisement featuring a little girl and her lego creation

Pandering to horny teenage linkspam

  • Angela Zhang of Cupertino won a $100,000 scholarship for her cancer fighting research. In her project, Zhang aimed to design a targeted gold and iron oxide-based nanoparticle with the potential to eradicate cancer stem cells through a controlled delivery of the drug salinomycin to the site of the tumor. (…) The 17-year-old roughly estimates that the essence of her research could be available for use by cancer patients in 15 to 20 years.
  • Anti-pattern theater: how to get women to quit

    How do you piss off a technical woman so she will leave your team? It’s easy. Just go and lob a few complaints about her behavior that would never apply to a guy. The easiest one of these is to say “you’re being too emotional”. Who’s going to argue against that? All you have to do is find places where she emphasizes things instead of remaining in a flat monotone and you hit paydirt.

  • BusinessWeek asserts, Lego Is for Girls:
    Focusing on boys saved the toymaker in 2005. Now the company is launching Lego Friends for “the other 50 percent of the world’s children.” Will girls buy in?

  • I’m starting to think Lego is evil – Some musings on how lego has changed over the years, including the new “targeted at girls” line. This article’s from a dad, and I’d like to see some responses from women too, so if you’ve seen a good one (or written one!) please post in the comments. Mostly, though, you need to see this old ad he dug up:
    Old Lego advertisement featuring a little girl and her lego creation

    Old Lego advertisement featuring a little girl and her lego creation

  • @mnemosynekurai: Surprising no one, @Kotaku defends its pandering to horny teenage boys yfrog.com/mnv83p
  • 11 To-Do’s for Women In Tech – Written after a panel at LISA, this is a very nice, short, clear list of advice for those trying to improve the numbers of women in tech. This probably won’t be new advice to many readers here, but it’s a good version to keep handy for those who want a short primer.
  • Greg Wilson is starting up a course on How to Teach Webcraft and Programming to Free-Range Students: Right now, people all over the world are learning how to write programs and create web sites, but or every one who is doing it in a classroom there are a dozen free-range learners. This group will focus on how we, as mentors, can best help them. This may be of interest to those hoping to mentor fellow women in technology!

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Antipodes robotics team

Team Antipodes is a team of three girls “headquartered in Pacifica, California, USA, but dedicated to collaboration with similar teams from around the globe.” They competed in the 2009 FIRST Lego League, placing third in their regional championships, and have extensively documented their work in the form of notes, video and CAD models to encourage others to experiment and compete.

Team antipodes portrait

Team antipodes portrait

We caught up with Violet, Emma, Kjersti and their coach, Ken, for an interview via email.

GF: When and how did you take an interest in robotics?

Violet: Ever since I was little, my dad has been exposing me to all sorts of technology. One of these things was robots. Robots fascinated me because they had a mind of their own. I wanted to be a part of making these machines and learn more about them.

Emma: The year before we started the team Antipodes my dad was doing a project with it. At first I didn’t want to do it but one day I got bored and started helping him out with the programming. Now I’m here.

Kjersti: The beginning of my 8th grade year. My friend’s Dad started a team, and he invited me to join it because he found out about robotics through my mom. It seemed like a cool thing to do, so I tried it out. This year was way cooler than my first year.

GF: How did the three of you come together to form Team Antipodes, and compete in tournaments?

Violet: Last year, our coach went to an event at NASA Ames and saw one of the FIRST robots. He got interested and was inspired to start a team. At first, it was through 4-H, which both of his daughters are involved in. Two of our team members, Kjersti and Emma, were on the team that year. It was not as successful as they had hoped. They had many people who were not very dedicated or interested.  He gave Kjersti and Emma the choice to craft this year’s team, and they decided to shrink the team and only include people who were extremely interested  in robotics, so they invited me onto the team.

Emma: Kjersti and I did it the year before and Violet was our friend who was interested in it also. We competed really well. We are all really good friends and helped each other out.

Kjersti: Emma and I were on the original team in 8th grade, but we split off from that and decided to form our own team independently. Violet was our friend who is super smart and seemed interested, so we recruited her. We felt satisfied with just the three of us, so  we stopped there.

GF: What have been the most enjoyable, and most difficult, times in the
team’s history?

Violet: The most enjoyable are the meetings, because there are always jokes going around, and the car rides back from the tournaments are always fun because the stress is gone. Seeing the robot, named TOR, do well in the competition is always rewarding, too. Though I have to say, our recent trip to Istanbul was one of the most memorable things in the whole season. The most difficult times are when it is the night before one of our competitions and things aren’t working like we had hoped.  Also when the robot is having a hard time at the competition and we don’t know why.

Emma: The most enjoyable have been meeting new people at the tournaments and hanging out. The most difficult are definitely when something is not working right and we don’t know how to fix it and also the long, early car rides to tournaments.

Kjersti: Some of the most enjoyable times have been the competitions. We are there, having fun with each other and at a point where there really isn’t a whole lot we can do the change what we have and we have to be happy. So we are. Some of the most difficult have been the night before a competition. We usually sleep over at our coach’s house the night before (his daughter is on the team) and the whole night we are stressing about our robot and just totally freaking out. It’s probably when we are the most stressed, and there have been break downs.

GF: How do you feel about competing internationally in the Open European
Championship?

Violet: We were thrilled when we found out. We fundraised so much and worked hard to go. When we got there, we were overwhelmed. We got to meet kids from all over the world and compete with them. It was a chance that few get to have and we were lucky enough to get.

Emma: I’m a little nervous but also very excited, it should be amazing to meet people from all over the world and see how their competition is run.

Kjersti: Totally amazed, honestly. Our goal at the first competition was to not get dead last. We accomplished that, but we never dreamed we would make it to an international tournament. We were trying not to be too nervous or stress about the competition, because we were there to have fun.

GF: What do you do when you aren’t making robots?

Violet: I do a lot of plays. In fact during the season, I was in two different shows.  Kjersti plays the saxophone and is in the marching band at our high school. Kjersti and I are also in Girl Scouts and a youth group together. Emma is involved with 4-H, does Cross Country, and horseback riding.

Emma: I run cross country, I do mock trial, I’m in a 4-H club, and I ride horses three days a week.

Kjersti: I’m in my local high school, Terra Nova’s marching band. It takes up a lot of time and practice, but I love it. I also love swimming and watching movies, but most of my time is taken up by school work.

Ken: Violet forgot to mention that she also does mock trial with Emma.

GF: You’ve decided to take a very open and collaborative approach to your work, as evidenced by the detailed information on your website (notes, designs, video and so on). How and why did you choose this approach?

Violet: We want to help other teams that need an idea of how to get started and let people see how we came up with our ideas.

Kjersti: It just sort of happened, but with a lot of pushing from our coach. He’s an architect and knows that it’s important to keep track of everything we do, and after a little bit we discovered that it was really helpful, especially since we weren’t always able to meet at the same times. It became an important tool to keep up with each other.

Ken: The reason we share our work and designs with our competitors, and anyone with access to the internet, is manyfold:

First, it’s a general principal of our league (FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to be gracious competitors. Second, we’ve been recipients of openness and help from older teams (most notably the LegoGuards and TechnoGuards), and it was immediately apparent this was the right thing to do. Third, I’ve been impressed by the many accounts of the long-term benefits of 1980′s Silicon Valley openness vs. Boston Area secretiveness. Fourth, it’s consistent with the whole idea of Antipodes (which means location on the opposite side of the globe) to push the envelope of engineering collaboration with students as far away as possible (Australians). Fifth, it took countless hours of web surfing to get started as a new team.  I realized it would be a valuable resource to have a single location to learn as many lessons as possible from our experience, down to the invaluable detail of remembering to change your tires the week before the tournament and to adjust your programming to account for the better traction.

Matt, as the team’s coach, I didn’t give the team much choice about this.  I just told them that openness is what we do, and they never questioned it.  Although, I know they can tell the difference from most of their competitors that don’t show their designs.

GF: What is your creative process like when you work together? How do your projects begin, develop and get completed through collaboration?

Violet: When we run into a problem, or just need to figure how to do something, usually someone suggests a possible solution. Then we start questioning it and trying to figure out every single detail of it. Since there are a few very visual people on the team, this usually involves a bunch of drawings and sketches. If we decide the solution is not going to work, someone else suggests something else and we start over. Once we agree on a solution we start working on it. Usually we divvy up the work and assign different tasks to different people. If someone runs into a problem with their task, they will ask for advice from the rest of the team. Eventually, the final work will be achieved whether it is a solution to a minor problem or a whole project.

Kjersti: We start with the problem, and basically brainstorm about what needs to happen. There’s a lot of trial and error that goes on, and we try each other’s ideas, until we find the best one and go with it.

Ken: I’d like to add that for any major design issue, we always break out the white board. The girls sit together on the couch as comfortably relaxed as possible and one of them volunteers to write the problems and suggestions out on the board in front of the others.

GF: Do you have any words of advice for other girls who are interested in robotics, as to how to get started?

Violet: Don’t let other people hold you down. Your friends may tell you that you are wasting your time, or someone may tell you that you can’t do it. You have to learn to not listen to these people.   Find a robotics team of some sort, or start your own. It is really a great experience and you learn a ton. FIRST has programs for all ages, and you can contact them about finding a team near you.

Kjersti: I’d say go for it! It’s a lot of work but it pays off in the end. There are more opportunities than you might think to get involved in robotics, so you can ask around, or go to the FLL website to get more information.


The team gave a Google Tech Talk in Mountain View in June, where they discussed their team and activities, and gave a demonstration of their robot:

Having competed in the European Championship in Istanbul, they are seeking donations to help cover their travel expenses. Due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, the trip was much more expensive than anticipated and as of this writing they are about $4000 short. If you wish to support them, you can do so on their website.

Were you a LEGO girl?

This Youtube video made it worth my while to get out of bed this morning despite the cramps that are starting to sneak up on me, damn them.

1500 hours of moving LEGO around and filming it. It’s a stunning job, and it hits all my fond memories of childhood geekiness. I used to have LEGOs spread all over my floor… when my Dad wanted me to learn to use chopsticks me had me use them to clean up LEGO… we went to the travelling LEGO show where they had enormous dinosaurs and spaceships taller than I was, taller than grown-ups, all made out of LEGO. But the music video also hits my C64 memories too, as Liz posted about the other week. PRESS PLAY ON TAPE indeed. *sighs wistfully*

How about the rest of you geeky women? Did you have LEGO, or some other kind of construction toy? Did you have to share it?