Women of NASA

It’s no secret I’ve been a “space case” most of my life. I’m not sure when it started but I recall a book I picked up in my school library when I was in second grade that really inspired me. It never occurred to me at the tender age of seven just how significant the woman featured in that book was. I mean come on, what does gender have to do with space exploration? Sally Ride was the first American woman in space. While America had all but won the space race, Russia got a woman up there first. It wasn’t until June 18, 1983, twenty years after Valentina Tereshkova, Ride broke that particular glass ceiling. It leads me to wonder what the hell took NASA so long.

There are many notable women in S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, math) fields and particularly at NASA. The recent movie Hidden Figures highlights a few of the many contributions by Kathrine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician integral to the success of the Apollo missions. I felt the film did a wonderful job portraying the challenges Ms. Johnson had to overcome not only as a woman but as a person of color as well.

When I heard about a Lego Ideas kit featuring some of the pioneering women of NASA I was super excited. This isn’t the first Lego Ideas kit to feature women in S.T.E.M. The previous kit featuring generic female characters in a research institute was so successful they had to do a second run. I imagined this new kit would be equally popular! I waited by my computer on the evening of October 31st to be sure I had a good chance to snag one. One of the benefits to living on the west coast is not having to wait until midnight. The kit went on sale online at 9:00pm my time and I was able to get one with no trouble!

I was a little disappointed the kit didn’t include the aforementioned Johnson as she was part of the original Ideas concept. Apparently there was some conflict with obtaining her permission. However the kit did include my personal hero Sally Ride as well as Mae Jemison, Nancy Roman, and Margaret Hamilton.

I really enjoyed building the space shuttle as part of the Ride Jemison vignette. It’s really easy to build large scale models of various things out of Lego but a real challenge is building something small. Micro scale is quite difficult but also a lot of fun. The Hubble Telescope in Roman’s vignette is another good example of micro scale.

The Women of NASA kit has already sold out on Amazon and the online Lego shop proving once again the popularity of women in S.T.E.M!

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A Lego Reformation

This year marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Reformation. This is kind of a big deal for Lutherans, the followers of Martin Luther’s teachings. To celebrate the anniversary my church held a Reformation fair during Sunday school. I was asked to create a Lego mosaic of the Luther rose that could be assembled during the event. I jumped at the opportunity. Of course I’d jump at just about any opportunity to work with Lego!

I wasn’t the first to attempt such a feat. A quick internet search came up with this design which is amazing…and a bit expensive. I’m all about go big or go home but when the church is footing the bill, I must take a more practical approach. Instead of the 5×5 32 stud base plates I scaled the design down to 3×3. Keep in mind these baseplates alone cost $7.99 apiece.

I searched online for a good picture of the Luther Rose that I could use to create my pattern and found one easily. In the past I used a program called Legoaizer to create patterns for mosaics. I simply import the image and the program does all the work. This time, however, I wanted to limit the number of colors and edit the design. I couldn’t do that with my program so I was stuck…for all of a minute. I also dabble in cross stich and last year I downloaded a program called PC Stitch that does the exact same thing for stitching as Legoaizer does for Lego mosaics. I imported my image and set the parameters and there was my rose! PC Stitch let me edit individual stitches or in this case Lego studs to the colors and configurations I wanted. Here is the final pattern!

The biggest challenge to a project like this is coming up with the actual brick. It’s difficult to calculate how much of any one size and color pieces needed unless I broke down the pattern as such. I knew the kids who would be assembling this wouldn’t want to be slowed down by having to following a pattern so closely. I had to guess. I spent several days sorting bricks in my private collection and when I came up short, I went to BrickLink for the rest. I guessed I’d be short on some things but I didn’t want to over order parts, again to keep costs low.

I did all the work in black. By having the outline done, the kids could grab the right color plate of any size and get to work without much instruction, and they needed no instructions! Needless to say the project was a huge success. I ended up being short on the white pieces at the fair but thankfully I had enough spare parts at home to finish the rose.

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