Experts in Engineering
Experts in Engineering
Boring a Tunnel
The Thames Tunnel under the River Thames in London, England, was the first tunnel to be built under a navigable river, which means a river large enough for ships to use. Then tunnel took 18 years to complete, and opened to the public in 1843.
Sir Marc Isambard Brunel (1769-1849) Brunel was a French-born engineer in charge of digging the Thames Tunnel. He invented a special iron tunnelling shield that protected workers at the tunnel face. Once a new section of tunnel had been dug out, the shield was driven forward and the surface behind it lined with brick.
Brunel’s iron tunnelling shield was three storeys high and contained 36 chambers. Each chamber could hold one worker.
STEM has become a buzz acronym for the importance of studying in those areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) throughout school. This series seems to want to capitalize on this to try to entice readers into these studies using the historical and biographical background and the scientific benefits of the topics. Rob Colson has combined all of these on almost every page of every book in the series in an interesting and compelling way. The tone of each book is different in a manner that emphasizes the topic in a completely appropriate way. Although the point is not to teach the subject, each book tries to present the topic in an appealing fashion so that readers can see that there are benefits to pursuing the subjects that will lead to an interesting career in a science field of some kind.
Each book is laid out in two-page spreads with each on a different colour background. The information is presented in small pieces with many illustrations, some photographs and other types to show historical figures, demonstrate a scientific principle or add to the allure of the subject. There is enough similarity to make the books easy to read and enough variation to keep them interesting. Even the covers are designed to draw readers into the books. The titles are all alliterative, the front covers are in bright colours with illustrations of two or more typical scientific topics, and the back cover includes three of the people who are included in the text. There is, by necessity, some overlap in the topics between and among the books, a benefit as the repetition reinforces the material.
As you would expect to find in a nonfiction book, there is a glossary and an index. In addition, there are several suggested problems throughout the text with answers at the back. Although there are no specific references, the information included can certainly lead readers to search for further details from other sources on any topic that interests them.
Engineers have become, in some ways, a representation of the application of scientific advancement, and they are strongly connected to both designing and creating many kinds of technology. Experts in Engineering focuses on civil engineering and those who work with infrastructure, such as buildings, bridges, tunnels and roads. The content moves from the earliest engineering to the most up- to-date applications and sues examples beginning with the pyramid of Giza and continues through many ideas ending with zero gravity engineering and building an elevated runway in Spain,. The pages about skyscrapers are even printed sideways, a nice touch so that there is more height to show the very tall building.
As engineering is a very practical aspect of science, the projects in Experts in Engineering are both varied and down-to-earth. These include a bridge made from paper cups and index cards, a tower made from paper and tape, a pinwheel and a demonstration of water pressure using a plastic bottle. All are very visual and provide great experiences for understanding what technology gives us in the real world. This is the only book containing just a few people, possibly because, in many ways, the final product is the result of the work of many individuals, a group or team rather than one person.
The “STEM-gineers” series can certainly be used to define and expand on the meaning of STEM. All of the books could aid in introducing students to some of the ideas that might attract them to continue to study the important topics in school. Perhaps the best part of the approach taken by Rob Colson is that all the biographical information may tend to indicate that the reader can actually make a difference in the fields of STEM. At this age, children do not need to know what they want to do when they grow up, but continuing with these subjects at least keeps their options open. That is why there is such an emphasis on STEM and why these books would be an important addition to a classroom or school library. Once the subject is broached in school, children need more information.
Living in Toronto, Ontario, Willow Moonbeam is a librarian, former engineer and lover of mathematics and science of all kinds. She even does logic puzzles for fun.