LEGO introduces female lab scientist

LEGO’s new female scientist “minifigure” helps break stereotypes that discourage girls from considering STEM careers, writes Maia Weinstock, a Scientific American guest blogger.

Originally, LEGO people wore very simple clothing and had “two dots and a curved smile for a face,” writes Weinstock. Minifigures were introduced in 1978.

The first female minifig in LEGO’s Space series was an
Cover edit 3
astronaut in the Ice Planet 2002 series, which depicted scientists working on the fictional planet Krysto.

LEGO’s Town (now City) series, which features minifigs in everyday life, includes doctors, EMTs, engineers, astronauts and space scientists. A Town doctor was the first female minifig in the series.

Most STEM professionals issued recently have been male, including the Computer Programmer, which debuted last year. He’s a cringe-worthy stereotype, writes Weinstock. Cover edit 3 “His nerdy attire, including bow tie and broken glasses, harkens back to an era and style that rendered programmers completely uncool.” (Are they cool now?)

LEGO also has a thing for mad scientists. The first one “wore a lab coat, a stethoscope, and a patently diabolical face.” Now there’s a wild-gray-haired Crazy Scientist, though he doesn’t look quite so evil.

Here are some examples of male and female minifigures in STEM-related professions.

Examples of male and female minifigures in STEM-related professions

 

Boys dominate AP physics, computer science

Most STEM fields are likely to remain predominantly male. Boys take more AP physics and computer science exams, while girls now dominate AP biology (59 percent), notes Curriculum Matters, who’s been reading the AP Report to the Nation. While Calculus AB exam-takers are evenly split, 59 percent of those who tackle the more advanced Calculus BC are male.

Males make up 58 percent of AP music theory exam-takers, 74 to 77 percent in physics and 80 to 86 percent in computer science.

Gender differences were minor for Chemistry, European History, Latin, Statistics and U.S. Government and Politics.

In The Big Bang Theory, three males are physicists (theoretical, experimental and astro) and one is an engineer, while the female scientists are biologists.

 

40% of new teachers took alternative path

Forty percent of public school teachers hired since 2005 came through alternative preparation programs, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Information. That’s up from 22 percent of new teachers hired between 2000 and 2004, notes Ed Week‘s Teaching Now.

In addition, the survey found that alternative-route teachers are more in favor of using reforms such as performance pay, elimination of tenure, tying student achievement to teacher evaluations, and market-driven pay to strengthen the teaching profession than are their traditionally prepared counterparts.

However, nearly all teachers, regardless of certification route, support removing incompetent teachers without concern for seniority.

All teachers surveyed were “slightly more satisfied with general working conditions” and “more satisfied with the status of teachers” than those surveyed in earlier years, going back to 1986, reports Profile of Teachers in the U.S. 2011.

Baby boomers are retiring: Less than a third of teachers are 50 or older and 22 percent are younger than 30.

Eighty-four percent of public school teachers are female, up slightly, and 84 percent are white, down from 91 percent in 1986.