Showing posts with label engineering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label engineering. Show all posts

Friday, November 2, 2018

STEAM Stories: Robot Repairs (Technology) by Jonathan Litton, Magalí Mansilla


Rating: WORTHY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

These stories are aimed at introducing kids to concepts of physics and engineering in a light, entertaining, yet instructive way. If there's one thing this world needs, apart from a total absence of inflammatory so-called leaders of the free world, it's more girls looking towards a career in the sciences, technology, engineering, and math. Girls may feel they don't need those subjects, but those professions definitely need girls' minds, ethics, sensibilities, and team-work skills.

That's why I thought this was a fun and useful book, again by the team of writer Jonathan Litton, artist Magalí Mansilla to introduce young people to these professions, and why it was good to show a female character being proactive and sharing equally in a project.

The story is simple - this old robot falls apart and a boy and a girl decide to use their smarts to see if they can put it back together again and make it work. Of course they do, but they have to think about what they're doing and make smart choices to get it right. This is a positive thing for young children to be exposed to, and I commend this book as a worthy read.


How to Think Like an Absolute Genius by Philippe Brasseur, Virginie Berthemetv


Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I have to say up front that I wasn't impressed by this book. For one reason it was overwhelmingly white male - as though there are so few examples of other genders and ethnicities that the author couldn't find them. I call bullshit on that. He simply didn't look, and instead of finding a diversity of modern cutting-edge exemplars, it seems he took the lazy route and fell back on historical figures.

The book is divided into three sections, the first, 'Be Curious', is all white males. The second, 'Be Imaginative', is all white males. The third, 'Be Determined', is all white males save two token people: Martin Luther King and Agatha Christie, but what is the point of being determined if authors determinedly exclude you in books like this? Each individual section had up to half-a-dozen 'also-ran' names listed, but again these were overwhelmingly white men - around sixty of them, and white women - around forty, with a literal handful men and women of color. This book needs to be shunned on that basis alone. I'm surprised the publisher allowed it to be published like this in this day and age.

Even with the white folks, the author talked only about the positive, like every one of these people was a paragon. He never brought up anything negative about his heroes, such as that Einstein made a major blunder in his calculations precisely because he did not have the courage of his convictions, or about Charlie Chaplin's predilection for juvenile females, or America's darling Edison (barf), who cruelly electrocuted animals for no other reason than to try to 'prove' that his rival Tesla's AC power transmission system was dangerous and Edison's own limp DC current was the only intelligent way to go. Guess who won?

Edison was not a genius. A genius does not blindly try out hundreds of filaments to figure out how to make a light work. In fact Edison wasn't actually the one who tried all those - he had his more than likely underpaid workforce do all the work. Maybe that was his genius: getting others to labor for him while he took all the credit? But the real genius was the guy who invented the light bulb before Edison 'did': Sir Joseph Wilson Swan. Can we not find better inspiration and better, more diverse people to seek to emulate than these? I refuse to believe we cannot.

The short response to this title is: No, you can't teach someone to be a genius. The problem is that part of it is nature, which is really hard to change unless you become the scientist who does figure out how to change that. The other part though, is nurture and it's highly malleable, especially in young children.

In short you can encourage people to think in ways that might lead to important insights and inventions, but just as with a horse being led to water, you can only do so much. That doesn't mean you can't be inspired by those who have gone before, but it's a lot easier to be inspired by someone who is in some way like you, and the majority of people on this planet are not white males - they're half female and largely non-white! I cannot commend this book at all. It's entirely wrong-headed, unless the author really only wants white male children to be moved by it.