Book-lovers can work in STEM – creativity is crucial!
Published on: 08 March 2023
Author and mechanical engineer Dr Shini Somara talks about creativity in engineering.
What springs to mind when you encounter the word “engineer” or “engineering”? Hard hats? Fluorescent jackets or perhaps car mechanics? Despite being a qualified mechanical engineer myself, this is what springs to my own mind first and most of the minds of the students I have spoken to over the years. When asked the same question, most ages respond with these stereotypes.
Yet, despite the stigmas, I have only ever been inspired by the incredible engineers I have met during my own career. Engineers do fascinating and creative things with technology and innovation to improve the quality of all of our lives. Meeting them, and my own experiences in engineering, motivated me to write Engineers Making a Difference, a compilation of interesting facts about forty-six brilliant, diverse and inclusive engineers, who are passionate about their field of engineering. Through their work, they are making a difference across a broad range of fields, from healthcare, transportation, basic human needs and communication. Many of them have jobs today that didn’t even exist five or ten years ago and all of them are coming up with solutions to important and interesting problems. All the engineers featured are great role models for the next generation.
We can follow in the footsteps of others when we see and understand what they do, especially and most importantly from an early age. Picture books about female astronauts, or architects of colour, for instance, show children that STEM is for everyone. Fiction plots often challenge the reader to unravel a mystery, or predict what a character will do. Engineers deal with human problems, and understanding people and thinking creatively are key skills. The aim of my book is to show 12+ year olds what engineering is really all about, in a relatable and digestible way. In doing so, my aim is to smash through obsolete stereotypes to reveal the ingenuity and goodness of this creative and essential profession.
My father always encouraged me to question everything and stay curious and these traits remain with me today. I was given a range of toys from Lego and cars to dolls and boardgames, but mostly enjoyed taking apart absolutely everything I encountered. Reading about the many different engineers is a fantastic way of highlighting the engineering that surrounds us, so that we can begin to view our world through an engineering lens. A problem-solving mentality is both key for engineering, but also a productive and practical way to approach our lives. One key way to keep children curious and keen to solve problems is through reading books, which provide information but also challenge the reader to make imaginative leaps.
Engineers Making a Difference has been generously supported by Imperial College and The Gatsby Foundation, who are donating two copies of the book to every single state secondary school in the UK. These books also come with a teachers’ pack, which contains some teaching resources, classroom activities, twelve posters and a timeline. All of which are designed to update the public perception of engineers and engineering. For more information, please visit https://engineers-making-a-difference.com/.
Engineers Making a Difference by Dr Shini Somara out now
Bookbuzz is a reading programme from BookTrust that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds. Participating schools give their students the opportunity to choose their own book to take home and keep from a list of 17 titles.