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Category: women in STEM
  • This trailblazing engineer became the first person in history to design a Naval ship using a computer.

    Raye Montague, the groundbreaking engineer and ship designer, smashed both gender and racial barriers to revolutionize Naval ship design and become the U.S. Navy's first female program manager of ships. While Montague was the first person to ever design a ship on a computer, her contributions were little known until Margot Lee Shetterly's book Hidden Figures, which told the story of African American female mathematicians at NASA, generated a new interest in other little-known women who made remarkable contributions with their technical prowess. Montague, who died in late 2018 and whose story has been told in a new picture book, The Girl With A Mind For Math, always credited her mother's insistence on education for giving her the push she needed to reach for her dreams. "You’ll have three strikes against you," she remembered her saying. "You’re female, you’re black and you’ll have a Southern segregated school education. But you can be or do anything you want, provided you’re educated." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Donna Strickland is only the third woman in history to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

    Physicist Donna Strickland has just awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for her groundbreaking work studying light and lasers — becoming the third woman in 117 years to win the prestigious award. The 59-year-old associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Waterloo was a graduate student working on her doctoral dissertation when she and her supervisor invented chirped pulse amplification, a method that creates ultrashort, high-intensity bursts of laser light without destroying amplifiers. The technique is most famous for its use in the development of Lasik eye surgery, but it also allows manufacturers to drill tiny, precise holes and makes it possible to miniaturize laser systems. Strickland, who describes herself as a "laser jock," says that becoming the third woman ever to win a Nobel Prize in Physics is "surreal," adding, "It’s hard for me to take it in right now. But I’m trying to enjoy it." Continue reading Continue reading

  • Dr. Frances Arnold, who pioneered the field of "directed evolution," became the fifth woman in history to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

    Dr. Frances Arnold has just been awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for pioneering the field of "directed evolution"  —  becoming the first American woman in history and the fifth woman overall to be honored.  The method she developed of engineering enzymes that mimic the process of natural selection has created a revolutionary new way for scientists and engineers to design more environmentally-friendly industrial processes. It's now being used in laboratories around the world to develop enzymes that can replace toxic compounds in everything from medicines to biofuels to laundry detergents. “My entire career I have been concerned about the damage we are doing to the planet and each other,” she says. “Change is easier when there are good, economically viable alternatives to harmful habits.” Continue reading Continue reading

  • Pioneering mathematician Ada Lovelace is now the subject of a variety of books for all ages!

    English mathematician Ada Lovelace is widely considered the world's first computer programmer for her invention of the computer algorithm. Born in 1815 to the poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabella Byron, Lovelace's mathematical talents led to an ongoing collaboration with mathematician Charles Babbage, who called Lovelace the "Enchantress of Numbers." While translating an article by an Italian engineer on Babbage's Analytical Engine, a proposed early version of a mechanical general-purpose computer, Ada added her own extensive set of notes, three times as long as the original article, which contained a tremendous breakthrough — the first computer program or algorithm!

    Ada Lovelace's important contributions to the development of computers were nearly lost to history, but fortunately her story is becoming more widely known today. She is now the subject of a variety of books for readers of all ages and, in this blog post, we've showcased these titles along with toys and posters paying tribute to the mathematical genius who envisioned today's computer age. Continue reading Continue reading

  • For the first time in history, a woman will serve as NASA's chief flight director.

    NASA took another giant step for equality this week when it named Holly Ridings as its first female chief flight director! Ridings, who is originally from Amarillo, Texas, will lead the flight directors that oversee human spaceflight missions from Mission Control in Houston's Johnson Space Center.  "Holly has proven herself a leader among a group of highly talented flight directors,” says Director of Flight Operations Brian Kelly. "I know she will excel in this unique and critical leadership position providing direction for the safety and success of human spaceflight missions. She will lead the team during exciting times as they adapt to support future missions with commercial partners and beyond low-Earth orbit." Continue reading Continue reading

  • The Trailblazing Mathematician Celebrated Her 100th Birthday This Week


    When President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Katherine Johnson in 2015, few people had even heard her name — but today, thanks to the smash success of the book Hidden Figures and its movie adaptation, this groundbreaking mathematician has become an inspiration for girls everywhere!

    Johnson was one of NASA's "human computers," a group of female mathematicians who calculated critical equations for rocket design, launch trajectories, and more. During her 35-year career at NASA, during which she was forced to overcome both gender and racial barriers, Johnson's skills in celestial navigation were renowned. She calculated — by hand — the flight trajectories for a number of historic missions, including the Alan Shepard's space voyage aboard Freedom 7 in 1961 and the Apollo 11 flight to the Moon in 1969. Now, this inspiring woman's contributions to the history of crewed space flight is finally being celebrated by the nation and the world.

    In honor of Katherine Johnson's 100th birthday, we've showcased a variety of books for all ages about the life and work of this trailblazing mathematician. These books capture Johnson's incredible determination, intelligence, and drive, and provide a stellar example for the next generation of pioneers! Continue reading Continue reading

  • A Mighty Girl's top picks of books for children about trailblazing female environmentalists of the past and present.

    With April's Earth Month comes a special opportunity to teach kids about the people all around the world doing important work to care for our environment and the life within it! In addition to the day-to-day activities that we can all do to reduce our impact on the planet, it's important to recognize the scientists and activists, both past and present, who have encouraged us to see our planet in a new way: not as a set of resources for us to extract when we please, but as a precious and delicate system that sustains all life that we must strive to protect.

    In this blog post, we're sharing books for children and teens about twenty female environmentalists who changed the way that we think and act toward the Earth. These women made groundbreaking discoveries, fought for meaningful change to laws and policies, and shared their outlook — and their joy in nature — with the world. They're sure to inspire kids to look at the world outside their front door with newfound appreciation and think about ways they can help protect the planet!

    For more Mighty Girl books about environmental issues, including many fictional stories, visit our special feature on the Top Children's Books on the Environment. Continue reading Continue reading

  • The "Women of NASA" Lego Set has become one of this year's top toys -- now learn the inspiring stories of these trailblazing scientists!

    When LEGO released their Women of NASA Building Set last month, it was a sensation. Our Facebook post announcing its release quickly went viral. The set became Amazon's bestselling toy and sold out within a day, showing the strong demand for science toys with female scientists at the forefront!

    The set features four pioneering women who made major contributions to the U.S. space program: astronomer and educator Nancy Grace Roman; computer scientist Margaret Hamilton; astronaut and physicist Sally Ride; and astronaut, physician, and engineer Mae Jemison. The 231-piece set, created by LEGO fan and science writer Maia Weinstock, includes minifigures of all four women and buildable models of the Hubble space telescope and a space shuttle.

    Weinstock, who first proposed the set on LEGO's crowdsourcing design platform, designed her set to increase awareness of the contributions these women made to the space program and to science as a whole. In her proposal, she wrote: “In many cases, their contributions are unknown or under-appreciated — especially as women have historically struggled to gain acceptance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)." In a later interview, Weinstock added that she believes it's "critical to have toys that girls can look at and play with and think, ‘that's me!'’ or ‘that could be me!"

    The massive popularity of this unique set — the first of its kind since the now discontinued LEGO Research Institute — has generated a sense of excitement and curiosity about the women of America's space program. But while many children and adults may recognize their names, few people know the details of these pioneering scientists' work. In this blog post, we're introducing you to these remarkable women, filling in the details about their careers and why they deserve to hold a special place in space history. We've also recommended books for all ages that let those interested explore their fascinating stories in greater depth. They've been immortalized in LEGO form; now it's time to celebrate the women themselves! Continue reading Continue reading

  • A Mighty Girl's top picks of books, toys, and gear to inspire young astronomers -- and introduce them to the women who helped us understand the stars.

    On August 21, people across North America will get the chance to witness a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event: a solar eclipse! It's the first total eclipse in the continental US since 1979, and for central US states, the first total eclipse since 1918. Even for those not in the zone of totality, partial eclipses will be visible in many places. So it's no wonder that there is so much excitement brewing — and with it, a surge of interest in astronomy and all things space!

    If the upcoming eclipse has your kids clamoring to learn more about astronomy, this is the perfect time to pursue their interest — and to share stories of the little-known women who have made enormous contributions to the field. In this blog post, we're providing a selection of books to talk about the eclipse itself and gear to view the eclipse safely,  as well as a variety of toys and science kits to support an interest in astronomy, and books about female astronomers throughout history. It's a great way to show kids of all ages that the sky doesn't have to be the limit! Continue reading Continue reading

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