Eve L. Ewing Adds a Dash of Black Girl Magic to STEM-Based Education

maya and the robot
by Eve L. Ewing
Illustrated by Christine Almeida

Diversity (or, more precisely, lack thereof) has long been a huge problem in technology and science. For example, Google and other Silicon Valley giants have reveal That their workforce is dominated by white people. And companies point to a “pipeline” issue—not getting enough black and Latino kids into tech and science in the first place, whom they can recruit later. Now here comes a book that deals directly with this “pipeline” issue.

“Maya and the Robot,” a Delightful Story by Eve L Ewing, champion the interest of youth in the world of technology and science fairs. The heroine is Maya, a shy mind who is black and a fifth grade student. The novel takes us through the shock of Maya’s first day of school and rapidly sets up a story line where she finds, heals and surprises everyone with an artificially intelligent robot named Ralph. .

Along the way, Maya discovers popular tech tools and trends. Emailing with a renowned robotics professor at Stanford? Check. Learning about different types of batteries? Check. Finding out about the flavor of AI known as “Natural Language Processing”? Check. The book also weaves in a glossary of robotics terms – actuators, anyone? – In the story. Animated by Christine Almeida’s captivating illustrations, it all makes tech and science cool, fun and accessible. And the message, at least to me, is clear: Young readers, don’t be afraid of technology and science. Anyone can enter these subjects.

Given Ewing’s background, this message makes sense. As an assistant professor at the University of Chicago, she has focused on how social inequality and racism affect public schools and youth. Ewing, who is black, also wrote “iron Heart” For Marvel Comics, a superhero featuring a black girl is genius.

The beating heart of “Maya and the Robot” is Ralph. A once neglected project tucked away in a dusty shop closet, the robot comes to life with an unmistakable personality, smiling through its LED screen and even knowing how to hug people Was. Ralph, we learn, is part of a mission by his creator to “use technology to heal the world, to make the world a kinder place.”

Ralph leads Maya in a subplot that deals with the tragic consequences of gun violence. He helps her to see some of her classmates in a new light and build stronger relationships with her neighbors, friends and teachers, eventually deepening her understanding of human relationships.

I couldn’t help wondering what kids might think of this novel, as they are its target audience. So I also asked my 13 and 17 year olds to read “Maya and the Robot”. My 17-year-old, who declared she was too ripe to read the book but still does, immediately jumped to the same conclusion I did about how the intelligent and courageous Maya’s portrayal could help girls become interested in STEM. will empower.

My 13-year-old had a different approach, perhaps because he finds it amazing to be immersed in tech projects and science fairs for kids increasingly incorporated into the school curriculum. Describing Maya’s conversation with Ralph, he said that the book is about friendship and how friends pat each other’s backs. Which, in the end, is a more universal message.

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