Congratulations to science editor and writer Maia Weinstock, aka 20tauri, the creator of WOMEN OF COMPUTING set honoring female pioneers of computing. A successful product idea that made it to 10k Club started with just one custom Minifigure that received a lot of attention. Maia is a well-known member of LEGO Ideas, whose set Women of Nasa has already been produced.
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
- How old are you?
44 years old
- What do you study or do for a living?
I am a science editor and writer.
- What hobbies do you have?
Celebrating women in LEGO is my main hobby. I also enjoy photography, cycling, and spending time with my family.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
My primary LEGO-themed accounts are @LegoCSwomen and @LegoNASAwomen on Twitter and @stemfigs on Instagram. I’ve also shared many of my LEGO projects on Flickr at @pixbymaia. But I mostly post, including many LEGO updates, as 20tauri on Twitter and Instagram.
- How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
I first played with LEGO as a child in the 1980s. I picked it back up again in late 2009 when I was inspired by seeing someone’s collection of historic minifigures online. I decided to try making some custom minifigures of scientists and engineers, starting with a friend and planetary scientist, Carolyn Porco. I continued doing that and posting the photos on Twitter until I eventually started making larger sets to submit to LEGO Ideas.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
I mostly build with LEGO and then share on social media. Someday I’d love to get more involved with local meetups, but for now, it’s something I do largely on my own — though I’m certainly connected as well with a number of individuals online who are AFOLs.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
Of course, LEGO Ideas is a fantastic theme, but I also really enjoy the Minifigures — I’m always on the lookout for new parts there — as well as the Architecture theme.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
That would have to be my earlier set, Women of NASA (21312). That project was life-changing, and it’s been amazing to see how the set has inspired countless children and adults around the world. But I never would have known about LEGO Ideas were it not for Ellen Kooijman’s Research Institute (21110), the prototype version of which I wrote about excitedly a long time ago now!
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
It’s like asking to pick your favorite child. If you consider Minifigure parts to be individual elements, I’d say hair is my favorite. I’d argue that no other part can be as unique and defining for a Minifigure than hair, whether standalone or fused with some other headgear aspect. I’m pretty fond of Minifigure heads as well, especially nowadays that many Minifigs come with dual face expressions. As for non-Minifigure parts, I love all elements with clips and handles.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
Through the Women of NASA project, I got to meet Tara Wike, a senior design manager at LEGO who works on Minifigure design, among other things. She also happens to be an alumna of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I work, and her career has been very inspiring to me.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO-related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
I’m a member of the Women’s Brick Initiative, and I regularly check in on the WBI social channels to see what other members are up to. I also appreciate the group’s research on diversity in LEGO, which I’m very interested in. In addition, I look for posts from Tips and Bricks, which mainly discusses building techniques, and New Elementary, which provides updates on new LEGO elements.
ABOUT YOUR PROJECT
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I created a custom Minifigure in the likeness of Grace Hopper a number of years ago, and the images from that got a significant amount of attention on social media, so I knew that at some point I wanted to make a set honoring female pioneers of computing. Hopper was just one of many such trailblazers but is one of the best known.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
I conceived of this project years ago, as a follow-up to my Women of NASA set. However, shortly after Women of NASA was released in stores, I was invited to write a book (a biography of physicist Mildred Dresselhaus), which I definitely wanted to do, and I knew it would take a considerable amount of my time and energy. So, I didn’t let myself even think about the computing set until my book was all but finished. I submitted near-final revisions to the manuscript in December 2020, just over 3 years after my Women of NASA set was released, and I started working on the computing set almost immediately.
My first challenge was deciding which women to include. It wasn’t easy as there are many worthy candidates. In the end, I chose a mix of women whose work could be easily identified with LEGO elements — not something I could do for just anyone, as modern computer scientists tend to work in a very conceptual world, one that can be tricky to illustrate in 2D, much less 3D.
Once I selected the women and the scenes, I began iterating with parts I had at home and then supplementing those with elements purchased online. At some point, I will join others in the AFOL community in using a CAD system for my LEGO projects, but for now, I make all of my models with actual bricks prior to photographing and presenting them on LEGO Ideas.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
Making the globe with the Gladys West vignette was a fun challenge — arranging all of the parts so the continents and ice caps were at least vaguely recognizable took some doing. I also knew I wasn’t going to be able to fit everything I wanted in the ENIAC vignette, so getting that to be as realistic as possible was a bit of a process. Finally, the UNIVAC took a while to plan out; I wasn’t sure which version of the UNIVAC I should recreate, and ultimately available elements helped me decide.
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
I finished the model in just over two months. I wanted to launch in March — Women’s History Month — so I just made it. It took about the same amount of time in the promotion stage to reach 10K supporters.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
This project went relatively quickly, achieving support in 10 weeks, but I definitely had to do more outreach than with my Women of NASA set, which benefited from a viral moment in the media. So once Women of Computing crossed the 10K mark it felt fantastic and was a big relief after I’d had the project in the back of my mind for so long.
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
The model is made from 844 elements.
ABOUT LEGO IDEAS
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
It’s important to build something you love, of course, but ideally, a product idea will also inspire others enough that they’d want to share it on their social networks, or want to sign up for a LEGO Ideas account even if they’re not already a member. Getting people to take action on your behalf is not easy, so your idea will be stronger if it makes people think: “I need this set in my life and will do whatever I can to make it happen.”
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
Mainly social media. I shared the project with my own contacts first and also created a Twitter account for the set. Among other things, I leveraged the popular Twitter account for my first set, as well as my own personal accounts, to get eyeballs on the project, and that definitely helped. Unlike with Women of NASA, there was almost no media coverage of this idea in the support-seeking phase, so by and large social media was it. I’ll add that the @LegoCSwomen Twitter account doesn’t have a lot of followers, but following and connecting with people who are especially interested in the history of computing, women in computing, and women in STEM history generally was a successful strategy.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
My favorite ideas that became sets are the Research Institute (originally Female Minifigure Set) and Voltron sets. But there have been so many other wonderful ones as well. My brother recently made the Piano set and it’s just lovely. Someday I will have to get the excellent Typewriter as well!
In terms of sets that were overlooked, I really loved ThomasW’s many creations and wish we could have gotten the LEGO Observatory, which was a finalist but not ultimately selected.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
I very much appreciate the opportunity to make concrete product suggestions through LEGO Ideas. It’s incredibly rare for companies to offer this option, and LEGO’s embrace of fan input is one of the many things that makes it unique.
If you’re thinking of uploading an idea for possible production, consider what the intended audience is and do some research on how to promote it even before you make the set. Some well-designed sets will gain traction on LEGO Ideas alone because of the high proportion of fans of certain types of products (for example, modular builds) already existing within the LEGO Ideas community. But many other sets will need an extra boost from outside of LEGO Ideas, and getting those individuals to care enough to either create an account to vote or share your idea with their community can be a lot of work. Assume your set will take a significant amount of effort and time to promote and ask yourself how you’ll plan promotion before you begin. Among other things, that might actually inform how you approach the build.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?
I do! I’ve already started collecting parts for a new project, but I most likely won’t be able to work on it fully until my book is out next year. So, stay tuned!
- 10k club
- 10k club interview
- product idea