By Suzanna Cottrell Olsen, SWE Member and Systems Engineer
One thing (of many) that I love about the Society of Women Engineers is how the Society and its members realize the importance of performing K-12 outreach to girls, encouraging them to consider careers in engineering. We realize, through volunteering for events like Invent it. Build it. and our local section’s STEM outreach events, that we are modeling and reflecting for girls the female STEM professional they can be. I have participated in many of these SWE outreach events myself, and I really enjoy interacting with the girls and showing them how cool engineering can be. But after more than 15 years of participating in these events (19 if you count college!), I found myself wondering what else I could do to encourage girls in STEM?
With this thought in mind, and the birth of my son (who inspired me to start a blog), I decided to write a picture book for young children with a distinctive STEM perspective. What has resulted from the numerous brainstorms, drafts, concepts, and false starts was a book about a young aardvark named Annie Aardvark (who happens to be named after fellow STEM professional Annie Easley) who loves math so much that she goes on a math adventure, counting up things she finds on her daily forage. I released Annie Aardvark, Mathematician in January 2017, and it’s been a local success here in Phoenix, as well as garnering some positive attention in the literary world (being featured on a few different library, author, and mom blogs). As I wrote the sequel, Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants, I asked myself how I could improve (like any engineer would) and expand the impact and influence of positive female STEM role models beyond the Phoenix area, and thus a Kickstarter campaign was born! My hope is that a parent or educator who isn’t familiar with the book finds it and shares it with a girl in their life. My goal in doing a Kickstarter campaign for Annie Aardvark: Adding Ants, is that the book series reaches its largest audience yet.
I don’t know if my books will have the same impact on K-12 STEM outreach like SWE has, almost 250,000 children impacted by SWE outreach efforts (truly amazing!), but I do know that with your support, together we can make a difference in our profession and in the lives of girls, whether through an outreach event or Kickstarter pledge. I will always be appreciative of the support that SWE has given to me as an engineer and author—yet one more reason to love SWE and be member! Thank you all so much and happy STEM’ing!
About Suzanna Cottrell Olsen
Suzanna Cottrell Olsen is a systems engineer in Phoenix, AZ. She currently works on the search and rescue system for the US Coast Guard. She is also the author of Annie Aardvark, Mathematician and creator of STEM Spark. Suzie’s spark is to encourage students, especially girls and minorities, to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Suzie lives with her husband and child, performing STEM experiment after STEM experiment with her own kid. You can find more about her at https://www.stemspark.co/.