STEM heroes is a manga series that aims to teach science through the adventures of four high school girls who use their science, technology, engineering and maths skills to solve mysteries and save the day.
The first book will be a bit longer than the ones to follow, as it introduces the readers to the four main characters, Mari, Jun, Miki and Yui. They are also starting to get to know each other. It is the beginning of the school year and, because of their common interests, the girls have joined Science Club after school. As they are coming out of the first session and heading back home they witness a crime. They know the culprit, but they are terrified that no one will believe them or, worse, that this dangerous person will come after them next. As soon as the car drives away, after recovering from shock, Jun can’t help herself and she is drawn to the crime scene. Immediately she starts visualizing the world around her in maths and calculates the car speed using measurements from the skid marks on the ground. Miki quickly jumps in to help and lend her a measuring tape, as she never goes anywhere without her tools. Mari suggests getting some DNA as well, but it’s getting late and they must go home. They plan to come back the next day to continue the investigations. Unfortunately, when they arrive the next morning, the police are already on the case and the crime scene is now inaccessible. Miki and Yui put together a plan combining engineering and coding to recover a sample for DNA testing. Also, to be able to prove the identity of the criminal, they will have to get creative to collect a matching sample from him.
Each book in the series will teach a new concept and application of science to real life situations. Therefore, all adventures will be based on real/plausible solutions. In March I’m going to visit a robotics/artificial intelligence lab in Tokyo and have a chat with the researchers there to get some more ideas for the second book and, especially, scientifically accurate information. This is a multidisciplinary area, so there will be something for each girl’s area of expertise. Also, on each book, new characters will be introduced to help out and provide extra knowledge, so the girls can learn something new every time.
From February, I will launch a series of short videos here where various scientists and STEM professionals will talk about their job. What subjects they studied at school, what degree(s) they did, what a typical day is like at work, what is the importance of what they do, what are the best and worst parts, etc. So… lots of info and also lots of ideas for new STEM heroes adventures!
The main aims of the series are to teach science through comics, as well as inspire girls to take more interest in STEM subjects and eventually consider them a career option. Whilst the latter is important due to the current gender imbalance in most STEM areas, everyone can enjoy reading and learning. The books are neither intended to discriminate against boys nor do they force anyone to do anything, as has been suggested to me recently. It’s about equal opportunities and equal encouragement from an early age. Then, everyone is free to decide what they want to do, but in knowledge that the opportunities are there for all. I currently live in Japan and the gender gap is even wider. Some school girls at gender equality events I presented at had never seen a woman who is a civil engineer, so they never knew women could be civil engineers. Crazy, huh? Children learn by example and this is why it is so important to provide good role models, it has been working for Finland for many years. An example of something that needs to change is the fact that three in four scientists depicted in primary school science textbooks are men. Regardless of their future choices, girls need to know about all the possibilities and they need to know that it’s ok to choose a career in STEM, if they feel inclined to do so. This is not a girl’s issue. It concerns everyone. Men should support equality of opportunities (and believe in it, not just for box ticking purposes) and boys should grow up believing in diversity and equality (of opportunities, positive discrimination is also wrong and is not being sugested here!) and that everyone can add value regardless of gender, colour, belief, sexual orientation or background.
Anyway, it is a great way of learning science, with beautiful illustrations by Eri Mine, a Japanese final year arts student. I hope you enjoy reading the books!