Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Google Engineers Turn Kids on to STEM with the New Children's Book, "Ara the Star Engineer" (Review) #AratheStarEngineer

Disclosure:  I was sent a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All views shared are mine and mine alone.

Komal, a Program Manager in Engineering and a mother of two, was inspired to launch this project when her four-year old daughter proclaimed, "Engineers are boys!” 

Last month I was sent an email about a new book that was being released, especially for girls of color, called "Ara the Star Engineer."  If you follow my blog, then you know that my two girls are part Latina, as their Daddy is from El Salvador.  After checking out the quick video about the book, and also looking over the free learning resourcing and activities, which you can find here: https://www.arastarengineer.com/learn-and-play, I jumped at the opportunity to review and share this book with my girls.  

My husband is an automation test engineer, and received his degree in computer science.  We met in college, and I can think back to our time in school and how the computer science dept, in the late 90's and early 2000's was male dominated.  I think there were only a few girls who were on the computer science track, taking classes alongside my husband and his male friends.  Makes me wonder how they girls felt sitting in the classroom filled with all male students and male teachers?  Maybe that is why it is hard to get girls to pursue careers in computer science and other engineering fields, as it is considered and has been for years, a male-driven profession.

But, thanks to this book, and the women from Google who are also engineers, that worked to put this book out, young girls will see that they see and be reminded that they can do and be anything they want to be, including being an engineer.  With my husband in the computer science field, and having a love of computers and programming, he uses his expertise with computers to teach both of my girls coding, as part of our homeschooling.  I handle all the other topics, and he works with them on computers and Spanish.  I love seeing the girls' eyes light up and big smiles appear on their faces when they create a game using coding, or solve an algorithm.  While they may not be excited at first to sit down and do coding with Daddy, once they start, within a matter of minutes, they are both hooked, and don't want to stop.

I continually look for books that are written with young girls in mind, and haven't seen a book like Ara the Star Engineer available.  This book wasn't written to make money and for the author to gain notoriety.  Instead, it was a "passion project" by female engineers (all of color) from Google, to help inspire young girls, especially of color, "to develop an enthusiasm for STEM subjects." Being a "passion project," all proceeds from book sales will be donated to charities encouraging girls and underrepresented groups' participation in STEM fields.  How great is this?  You can't say that about most children's books released.

I received a copy of this book a couple weeks ago, and couldn't wait to read it to my girls.  The first thing they noticed was the girl on the front cover.  My youngest said she looked a Latina, with her golden skin.  And, then as we read through the pages of this book, the girls couldn't help to point out all the women in the book, and how they were women of color -- again, something you usually don't see in children's books...female diversity.

The story itself is easy to follow along and for young girls to understand.  It is about a young girl named Ara, who wants to count all the stars in the sky.   With the help of her droid DeeDee she develops and algorithm to do just that.  This book talks about coding, collaboration and being courageous, all while inspiring young girls to follow their dreams and passions.  It can also be enjoyed by boys, but I like how the main character is a girl and she is following her dream, and she gets help by other women working at the Innovation Plex.  

I ended up using the activity sheets mentioned above, with my girls after reading this book, and they loved them. They were a little challenging, but like Ara, my girls didn't want to give up, and worked together to find solutions and solve the problems.

I am so happy I had the opportunity to share this book with my girls, and have an open discussion with them about all the possibilities when it comes to pursuing a career down they road. They could follow in their Daddy's footsteps if they find they love computers and programming like him, or maybe find another STEM-inspired career that is sparked with school we do, and classes they take.  They are going to make a mark on the world, and it is up to them as to what they want to do.  And, this book is just a reminder that girls can be engineers, too!

More about this book:

"The troubling lack of women and people of color in STEM is big problem, and it begins in childhood.
• Girls start doubting their STEM intelligence by age six.
• Women make up only 25% of the STEM workforce.
• Black men and black women only make up to 3% and 2% of scientists, respectively.

So Komal Singh and fellow female Google engineers decided to volunteer their spare time to do something about it. They wrote Ara the Star Engineer (Page Two Books, October 16th 2018), a first-of-its-kind picture book designed to inspire girls and children of color to explore STEM. 
All profits from the book sales will be donated to charities encouraging girls’ and underrepresented groups’ participation in STEM fields. This book is not an official Google product; but a grassroots, passion project of Google employees in their personal capacity striving for an equitable future for all."

About the Author: 

Komal Singh works at Google as a Program Manager in Engineering. As a techie, a mother, and an immigrant, she’s passionate about using technology as an enabler and an equalizer for all. She takes part in kids’ coding clubs, sits on hackathon judge panels, and volunteers with nonprofits on technology development.

Disclosure:  I was sent a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All views shared are mine and mine alone.

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