Interview with STEM Author Komal Singh of Ara the Star Engineer

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Hands-on S.T.E.M. learning is one thing, but girls love to read, so why not get them reading about S.T.E.M.? More and more books geared toward young girls to get them interested in S.T.E.M. and we have another one we are excited to share with you. I interviewed Komal Singh an employee at Google about her new book Ara the Star Engineer.

The book is amazing and I love that Singh has put some of her fellow female coworkers from Google into the story.

Ara the Star Engineer is in stores now and would be the perfect gift for little girls everywhere! I’m so honored that Singh answered some of my questions so that I could share them with you.

Ara the Star Engineer

 

Explain to the younger generation what you as an engineer do at Google?

I work on a team called “Ads Infrastructure”, which basically means we design and build the software backbone that is used to “serve” ads on the internet – anytime you are surfing the internet and see ads, I’m on the team that makes it possible,” Singh said. “The Ads System is one of the biggest systems in the world, serving trillions of ads every day, to billions of users, in split seconds.”

What are some ways to get girls interested in engineering from a young age?

  1. First is to encourage them, by increasing their access to resources such as books, museums, critical-thinking games. A lot of this is based on just sitting with your kids and doing activities such as building lego with them, and feel euphoric when you’ve built something you’ve been working on for a week – this shows them the magic of persistence and innovating things.
  2. For slightly older kids, I feel is trying to find them real-life mentors who are in their field of interest. This may not always be accessible, but nowadays there are many “coding clubs” such as Black Girls Code, Made With Code, Girls Who Code etc. For kids to be able to interact with such role models goes a long way in boosting their self-confidence and give them a vision/path of what they’d like to become.
  3. Also, the book’s website www.arastarengineer.com, has a number of resources for parents and kids to follow if interested. There are also a dozen downloadable activity sheets that parents/teachers can do with the kids – these are very fun!

Komal SinghHow are engineers changing the world?

We are living in a world that is increasingly technological, and engineers build all of this technology around us! The technology that powers the internet, phones, tv, cars, toys – everything we use on an everyday basis! And more importantly, engineers also build meaningful systems that are used to tackle social and health problems – AI systems for treating cancer, systems to curtail child trafficking, apps for connecting charities to donors etc.
Is Ara illustrated to look like your daughter?
My daughter’s picture was one of the things that were on the “mood boards” where the illustrator was taking input from,” Singh said. “However, we did intentionally change the appearance to make Ara look culturally-neutral as much as possible so that many people across the globe could relate with her.”
“The name Ara is derived from Ada Lovelace, who is regarded as the “mother of computing” and was the world’s first programmer about 150 yrs ago,” Singh said. “Plus, the word Ara is a palindrome – something that spells the same left to right and right to left.”
Do you have future plans for more stories?
I’d love to! I have many ideas on storylines: computational numbers, artificial intelligence, anatomy of computers,” Singh said. But more importantly, I do want to take the feedback of readers into account. What is it they want to see more of (or less of)? For e.g. do we want more real-life sheroes in the series, do we want scenarios to be based on real-life places and problems? Your suggestions are welcome!”
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.

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Meghan Cooper is a writer, content creator, movie critic, and geek living in Atlanta, Ga. She loves movies, traveling, and lots of coffee. Member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association, Georgia Film Critics Association, and Atlanta Film Critics Circle.

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