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Women of Computing


Approaching 10,000 Supporters


As we approach the 10K milestone (9,970 as I write but I'll be unavailable for a while after I post this), I just wanted to say how honored I am to have earned your support.

Huge thanks to everyone who voted for, commented on, and shared this set, here and on social media.

What happens next? An official LEGO Review will begin at the conclusion of this current voting period, which I believe is slated to end in early September. We should know by early next year whether LEGO will produce the kit in stores. In the meantime, I'll continue to highlight outstanding women in tech, as well as tweet project updates, via the Twitter account for this set at

Thank you again!

Maia (@20tauri, here and on Twitter and Instagram)


9,000 Supporters

Wow! Can hardly believe we are at 9,000 supporters as of this week. It has been fantastic hearing from so many of you about what you'd like to do with the Women of Computing set should it get made — from putting it in your classrooms as inspiration for your students to having it on your desk at work to gifting it to the little ones in your life.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the project this far... I had the idea for this set several years ago but didn't let myself work on it until I finished the book I was asked to write back in 2017, a biography of physicist and engineer Mildred Dresselhaus, shortly after my Women of NASA set became available for sale. The book project took longer than anticipated, which meant this project had to remain on indefinite hold... Happy to report the book is all but finished now, and when I sent in my second round of revisions this past December I knew it was time to break out my bricks and minifigs! To see how quickly the set has gathered votes is humbling, and I'm so glad you all have enjoyed it. Thank you again — and here's hoping I get to make another post at 10K in the not-too-distant future!

Maia (@20tauri)


8,000 Supporters — Wish List

Hi everyone,

It's been a busy two weeks so apologies for skipping a post at 7K supporters... The great news is yesterday we passed the 8,000-supporter mark! As of today, the Women of Computing is in 15th place in terms of most-supported sets on LEGO Ideas. More importantly, it means we have fewer than 2,000 votes to go in order to achieve our ultimate goal of 10K supporters and an official LEGO review. Thank you so much to everyone who has voted and continued to spread the word...

Shoutouts this week go to The Toy Locker, 9 To 5 Toys, and Microsiervos for the articles and blogs! Thanks also to Adafruit Industries, Sally Ride Science, Grady Booch, Sean Murthy, Betsy Weber, Jos Koelewijn, and many more for sharing the project on social media.

For this post I'd like to take a moment to discuss all of the things I wanted to include in the set but couldn't for lack of appropriate elements — in many cases designs on elements. This is something of a wish list of changes I'd like to see happen should we make it to 10K and should LEGO decide to move forward with the project. Without further ado...

Bartik/Holberton/ENIAC: The images of the ENIAC that I've seen are not detailed enough to show what appears on various screens of the machine. I'd love LEGO to work with historians to figure out what might have been on some of those screens. And the black 1x2 plate should say "The ENIAC" on it, as can be seen on the actual machine. For Jean Jennings Bartik, a unique printed skirt legs assembly is in order; she's currently wearing the Margaret Hamilton legs from my Women of NASA set because of the shoes, but there aren't really other options that would have worked, so that would need updating. I'm quite happy with the Betty Holberton figure, though the face should be updated to be slightly different than Margaret Hamilton's! Lastly, there should be a unique printed tile for the reference notebooks (in Bartik's and Holberton's hands).

Annie Easley/NASA Glenn control room: I'm pleased with this vignette overall. Some have suggested the knobs should be printed onto stickers to look more realistic, but my sense from past experience is LEGO would prefer built buttons. Easley could have a bit more of a wry smile, and could be holding a clipboard specifically (none that I found from past sets were especially appropriate here). Importantly, she does need a legs assembly with shoes on it! I suspect the cloth skirt would be a no-go, and if that's the case then of course she'd need an entirely new printed pink skirt suit to match the one from her iconic image. On the rocket: I debated connecting the boosters in the way they were combined in a recent LEGO advent calendar. I just thought the cylinders looked more realistic this way, even though they're not connected. Would love to see true colors including, perhaps, some stickers. And I added the NASA logo for instant visual identification purposes, but actually a white star in a navy circle would have been more appropriate!

Grace Hopper/UNIVAC I/desk: The UNIVAC would clearly need some stickers (or a unique set of prints). I designed and printed out very rough sketches of what that could look like, but obviously the designers would need to take into account that there are three elements making up the bulk of what in real life is one single console interface. On the separate magnetic tape unit: I originally tried a shallower curve that came down from the top of that equipment, using a SNOT element and a curved translucent plate to cover the tapes. But no translucent (or trans black) version of that element exists currently, so it was impossible to render it with actual parts. Alternately, as with the real UNIVAC I, the curve from the model I did ultimately show should ideally be translucent, rather than gray. On Hopper's desk: The clock needs to have the numbers in reverse order (it is so in photos but that was digitally altered); the found moth should really be on yellow paper and should look like the actual specimen; the COBOL manual should look like this; and the award could mimic an actual award she's received. Finally: Grace's outfit, which, yes, I recreated for Halloween one year. I erred on the minifigure's pants, which should have been navy rather than white, according to the U.S. Navy service dress blue dress code. Also, her jacket needs the appropriate service bars as well as a "Hopper" nameplate (when she was a Commodore/before that title was changed to Rear Admiral, it said "Como. Hopper" but I've seen other nameplates with just "Hopper"). And while uniforms have recently been updated to be more gender neutral, Grace Hopper would have worn a hat that was unique to female officers so she should be wearing that — and it should have some hair attached.

Gladys West/GPS: Pretty happy with this vignette, but the diagram on her wall should be either a sticker or a printed example of GPS satellite data. You can see her looking over such a chart here.

Ada Lovelace/Analytical Engine: I'd love to see some of the notes from Ada's actual work on the Bernoulli numbers, which some consider to be the very first computer program. I have not found any evidence that we know what color her cat, Mrs. Puff, was, but perhaps that exists somewhere... Her dress would ideally be updated as well to match one of the dresses she wore in famous paintings. And while the Princess Leia hair is pretty close, if money and molds were no object, I'd love to see Ada's hair a little more as it actually was.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Maia (@20tauri)


6,000 Supporters

This past week we passed the 6,000-vote mark. Thank you to everyone for your support!

We also wished happy birthday to Annie Easley, one of the six women in the set! Easley (1933-2011) was a longtime computer scientist at NASA who was recently recognized with the honor of having a crater on the moon named after her. A New York Times article this week recounts how planetary scientist Catherine Neish has been working to nominate more women for crater names due to their severe under-representation — with Easley only the 33rd lunar crater named for a woman, while there are 1,546 named lunar craters honoring men.

With this set, I too hope to bring more awareness of Easley's important contributions, to computer science generally and to NASA history more specifically. Let's do it!

Maia (@20tauri)


5,000 Supporters + Selecting the Women of Computing

Halfway there!! This week we reached the all-important 5,000-supporter mark, which unlocked another six months of time to get to 10K. THANK YOU to all who have supported the project so far.

I wanted to use this post to elaborate on how I selected the six individuals that appear in the Women of Computing proposal. As with my last LEGO Ideas project, Women of NASA, choosing a handful of individuals to represent many decades of contributions to a field was a tricky proposition. Of course, I will never be able please everyone with the individuals chosen for any one set, and people will always suggest others to add. It's fantastic that my projects inspire people to make other suggestions, and I always welcome comments!

For Women of Computing, I chose to portray a mix of individuals, some better known and some lesser known. I would argue that famous faces are key to the viability of any project related to history on LEGO Ideas; few would vote for a set if they've never heard of at least a couple of the individuals therein. However, I also aimed to raise the profile of individuals who made underappreciated contributions, so it's certainly a balance. I also wanted to show a sampling of the contributions women have made to computing technologies, and to underscore how women have been critical to this field since its inception. Yet the builds were a key factor. Per house rules, LEGO Ideas proposals must not focus on minifigures; accompanying build(s) must be significant. Meanwhile, computer science is a notoriously difficult discipline to illustrate to the general public. As a result, there are many worthy individuals whose achievements would have been difficult to convey with LEGO elements — especially those whose work focused on theoretical aspects of computing, programming languages, software architecture, network engineering, etc.

Some have asked: Why did you not include XYZ? I've probably gotten the most questions about Margaret Hamilton, which has been amusing, as I honored her in the Women of NASA set. (If you look closely you'll notice she's in this set, too!) Rather than address why I didn't pick certain people, and considering my limitations noted above, I will now describe why I selected who I did.

Grace Hopper is arguably the most famous of the six, at least here in the U.S., and hers was the vignette I first knew I wanted to include. Hopper's contributions are well noted, and she's been celebrated both during her lifetime and in more recent years for her pioneering achievements. I created a custom standalone minifig of Hopper a number of years back, and it was so popular that the organizers of the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing asked to borrow it for their conference that year. So that was a clue that I needed to start with Hopper. I wasn't originally sure whether I'd show her with the Mark I or the UNIVAC I, but the UNIVAC won out, mainly because its console is far smaller, and I had also wanted to include her desk with all of the nods to her past and her unique personality. (If you haven't seen my update on those easter eggs, scroll down!)

In 2017 when I taught an MIT course on the history of women in science and engineering, I shared with my students a fantastic documentary about six women who first led the programming of the ENIAC, a trailblazing computer developed in Philadelphia in the mid 20th century. It was not the first time women had worked on a major computing project like this; thousands of women, for example, were codebreakers at Bletchley Park in the U.K. during World War II. But the story of these programmers was the one I decided to tell here, in part because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the ENIAC. Betty Holberton and Jean Jennings Bartik were considered the two leads among the ENIAC six; after ENIAC, Holberton had a long, influential career in computing while Bartik continued for some years but eventually transitioned to another field when she hit career walls — but they both began to be recognized for their computing work toward the end of their lives. I considered including all of the ENIAC six, and I would certainly have done so if the set were a full scale model, but this vignette seemed too small to accommodate six minifigs, so I settled with Holberton and Bartik as representatives of the group.

Some of my favorite stories regarding women in STEM come from learning about individuals who've made underappreciated advances that improve daily life. Such is the case for Gladys West, whose programming work served as the basis for the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is ubiquitous in today's connected world. West's vignette was the first that I physically modeled, as I was excited to learn how to make a round ball out of straight LEGO elements. I also obtained a copy of West's autobiography to learn more about her background, and it really is a wonderful read; her work spanned well beyond computing but her contributions to that area alone significantly have changed the world for the better. Adding her to this project was one way I could help others learn about her remarkable life and career.

I included Annie Easley for several reasons. For one, I thought it would be nice to have some overlap with my Women of NASA set: Easley could fit both there and in this newer project, in the same way Margaret Hamilton could have been included in either. (I've noted elsewhere that I designed the bases for all Women of Computing vignettes with the same proportions as the bases in the Women of NASA final product, so they may easily be combined.) Like for Hamilton, I also really wanted with Easley to recreate an iconic scene: an image of her holding a clipboard in a unique floor-to-ceiling cyan control room with red, yellow, blue, and white buttons and gauges all around. Easley, an influential programmer and mathematician who worked at NASA for some 30 years, once reported being cut out of a promotional photo with other colleagues — a sign of discrimination that she never forgot. This vignette is my attempt to add her back into that photo, so people around the world will know her name.

The Ada Lovelace vignette was the last that I worked on. My first foray back into Lego as an adult came about after seeing a Lovelace minifigure online in 2009. It inspired me to design minifigs of living scientists, and I started by modeling a friend, the planetary scientist Carolyn Porco. I followed this with many other STEM professionals, but I eventually came to enjoy making minifigs of historic figures as well, including one of Lovelace that I designed in 2015. Many have called the work she contributed to Charles Babbage's proposed Analytical Engine "the first computer program," though some prefer to debate that point. Either way, her vision for computing machines was undeniable and ahead of her time — to the point where historians have noted that Grace Hopper saw herself as the 20th century's Lovelace, taking a groundbreaking machine designed by a respected inventor and making it function with novel programming techniques. I had hoped the fantastic LEGO Ideas proposal Lovelace & Babbage by @Stubot might make it to production along with my Women of NASA when we both reached 10,000 supporters back in 2016. Unfortunately it wasn't to be, but that project helped me to see that making a place for Lovelace in this Women of Computing set would be a fitting way to pay tribute to her legacy.

In 2014 I visited the Science Museum in London and saw the partial Analytical Engine model I recreated for this Women of Computing proposal. From that clunky mechanical device to today's sleek computing machines, countless steps were made by many thousands of individuals. The six women in this project are far from alone in moving the needle in significant ways, but I hope with these vignettes, people will come to appreciate the role women have had in not only participating in computing history but indeed in defining it.


4,000 Supporters

What a week!

I'm thrilled to report that we've passed the 4,000 supporter milestone. It's been a busy week — among other things, I got my first Covid-19 vaccination; thank you scientists and engineers! — but I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for your continued support.

Special thanks this week go to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Jess Wade, Sean Gardner, and Great Women of Mathematics for sharing the project on social media.

As a reminder, you can follow along at @LegoCSWomen on Twitter.

Maia (@20tauri)


3,000 Supporters

Just one week into our campaign, and we're nearly one-third of the way to 10K. Amazing! Thank you to everyone who has supported and boosted the Women of Computing project so far, either by voting, commenting, or sharing on social media.
As of right now, Women of Computing is the second-most-popular entry on all of LEGO Ideas. Thousands of people have voted for and shared the set, and I've lost count of the number who say they "need" to have it, lol. Thank you!

In case you missed it, the project received a nice shoutout on A Mighty Girl this week:

Thank you also to AdaFruit for this piece:

Stay tuned for more updates and don't forget to follow @LegoCSWomen on Twitter for the latest!

Maia (@20tauri)


2,000 Supporters

Today we reached 2,000 supporters, an important milestone on the way to 10K!

Thousands of people have been posting and tweeting about the project on social media... Thank you to everyone who has shared or otherwise spread the word. You can follow the project on Twitter at @LegoCSWomen.

Among those who checked in this week was a son of Jean Jennings Bartik, featured in the ENIAC vignette, who said that his mom would have liked the set. (Bartik died in 2011.)

I'd heard about Bartik as a member of the ENIAC Six a while back, but I really got a sense of her personality and history when I first watched the documentary "The Computers," celebrating the six women who led in the ENIAC's programming. Bartik was extremely articulate about the group's accomplishments and what it was like to be a part of history with this monumental machine:

Toward the end of her life, Bartik was able to enjoy some belated recognition for her work; among other things, in 2008 she became a fellow of the Computer History Museum.

Thanks to everyone for your support this week, let's keep it going!

Maia (@20tauri)


1,000 Supporters

After working on this project for the past few months — starting with sketches, building with parts I had on hand, ordering like crazy from BrickLink, waiting for the mail person each day, and then iterating when the parts showed up — it's been fun to experience the final prototype going out into the world! And how exciting to watch the numbers soar to a major milestone today, 1,000 supporters... THANK YOU to everyone who has voted so far!

I thought I'd share today a pic of one vignette that I wasn't able to upload to the main images. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was the first person I thought about including in this set; I'd made a custom minifigure of her a while back and people have loved it. For her vignette I wanted to include not only one of the well-known machines she worked so closely on, but also a slice of her life as a computing icon. Here are the two images I used as reference for Hopper's desk:

As you can see, I've included the following in Hopper's vignette:

On the backward clock: “Humans are allergic to change,” Hopper once stated. “They love to say, 'We've always done it this way.' I try to fight that. That's why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.”

On the pirate flag: Hopper was in the Navy, of course, but she flew the Jolly Roger on her desk as a reminder that sometimes you have to step outside the lines a bit to get things done. She is famous for having said, “If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission.”

Some of you will have heard about the moth that Hopper and her team found in the Mark II at Harvard University when it suddenly stopped working. It wasn't the first time someone used the term "bug" to describe a computer problem, but she and her colleagues are credited with helping to popularize the term "debug" in computing. Of course, the moth had to be included here; you can see the actual moth in the archives of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Thanks again for your support, and stay tuned for more!

Maia (@20tauri)


500 Supporters

Wow! So thrilled to see that 500 individuals have supported this set in just under 2 days on the LEGO Ideas site. Thank you all for your early support! Stay tuned for goodies about this set in future updates.

Maia (@20tauri)

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