What do Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Carol Vorderman have in common? They are all 'heroes' worthy of becoming emojis – at least according to the non-profit organisation EngineeringUK. While Darwin and Newton are credited with fundamentally transforming humanity's understanding of the world around us, Vorderman used to be on Countdown.

The new emojis form part of an initiative aimed at inspiring school children into STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) careers. Included in the 23 STEMojis are figures that range from Darwin, Newton and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, to Vorderman, celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and comic actor Richard Ayoade.

The decision to include the likes of Vorderman and Ayoade alongside scientific luminaries was defended by Paul Jackson, the chief executive of EngineeringUK. Jackson hopes that by doing so it will draw attention to a wide range of STEM figures, while also being accessible to a "modern-day teenager".

"Whilst it might seem strange to group Richard Ayoade and Marie Curie together as emojis, we are showcasing the different contributions science and engineering make to our lives," Jackson said. "We hope that these fun STEMojis will get young people talking about science and engineering and thinking about where their studies could lead them. We look forward to receiving additional suggestions of STEM heroes to be celebrated in this way."

The rise of emojis

Emojis have soared in popularity in recent years, having first been invented two decades ago in Japan as a way of adding nuance to text communications on the first feature phones. While some have proclaimed that the rise of emojis signals the death of language, others have said that they have given a voice to the illiterate.

"I think it's making me totally dumb. It's dumbing me down, but maybe we need that," Nimrod Kamer, a self-proclaimed emoji expert, recently told IBTimes UK. "I was born in Israel so I have an accent. Using emojis I feel I can ignore my accent. There are no typos in emojis.

The rise of emoji: The death of language or a voice for the illiterate? IBTimes UK

"It's a way to annoy many people in academia – students and professors – who really believe in long PDFs. You give them a few emojis and tell them 'that's my dissertation' and see what they say. It's class warfare. Emojis is the way for the illiterate and the uneducated to fight back against the establishment."

The new emojis created by EngineeringUK are to be submitted by the Big Bang Fair – set to take place in March next year – to the Unicode Consortium for approval so that they can be used by smartphone and tablet users.