When we started the process of writing a children’s book series about mining and engineering, the first question we had to ask ourselves was “who are the central characters?” In other words, who are the best people to teach children about these scientific concepts? The answer, of course, is children!
The protagonists of our story are three sweet, silly, and smart fifth graders, known at their elementary school for their inventive pranks and close friendships with one another. But when we started writing our story, we wanted there to be more to each of these students, beyond their reputations as silly pranksters. We wanted the children themselves to each represent the qualities of an engineer (or more specifically, a mining engineer).
So who are these three maniacs? And what is it about each of them that represents the greater qualities of the mining, geological, and engineering fields?
Let’s start with the silliest of them all. Victor is an adventurous and goofy spirit who is always up for something exciting and new. He has no limitations when it comes to adventure, whether he travels into the heart of the rainforest or to the tallest mountain peaks. He loves being the first to take risks among his friends, and is always up for a challenge. Sometimes his enthusiasm can get him into trouble, and he has learned (and will continue to learn throughout our series) the importance of “safety first!” and always following directions.
Victor represents that great spirit of adventure that I have found time and time again in the mining engineers I’ve encountered. To be willing to dig in the depths of the earth, or travel around the world searching for the earth’s great resources, every mining engineer needs to have a bit of Victor’s spunk and desire for adventure. But many mining engineers are also learning, as Victor has, why safety and care for the environment must be central to the industry’s mission and message. They are discovering that adventure can at times be risky, and thoughtful, careful planning is always important to the engineer’s framework.
For almost every engineer I know, their love of engineering started with an early SPARK! Whether they were small children building with trains, or older college students who found machinery more fasicinating than a good book, most engineers fell in love with engineering because of (not in spite of) a love of careful planning and intricate systems. This is at the heart of Herbie, our great observer. With his notebook always in hand, Herbie has fallen in love with the more observational side of engineering, and is always making notes about the world around him.
In particular, his love for machinery and the “how” behind his world has formed him into a thoughtful and attentive child, and his ability to recognize the workings of his world have also helped him notice other small details about his friends. He encourages Victor to be safe and conscious, and he helps Marabel work through her fears with courage and conviction. He is a great friend to have around, and an always observant engineer.
Which brings us to the strong-willed and bright Marabel, our first book’s main protagonist. Marabel is the leader of the bunch, and is more often times than not the brains behind the trio’s silly pranks. She loves solving puzzles and has a mind full of questions for both her peers and teachers alike. But Marabel’s puzzle-solving genius also contributes to her need for feeling in control. When things don’t go as planned, Marabel can often doubt herself and her abilities.
It shouldn’t be hard to see how the great puzzle-solving skills of Marabel align with the qualities of a mining engineer, who seem to solve about ten new puzzles a day! But Marabel’s hesitancy and insecurities are also meant to speak to the feeling many young girls have when they attempt to enter the sciences. Right now in our country, women only make up 15% of the engineering workforce! We wanted to write a story with a girl front and center, letting all little girls know they have a place in this industry, too!
Our maniacs represent the very best qualities of an engineer, and each are important to help solve the great problem they will encounter in this series. But what is this great problem? And who exactly are the maniacs helping along the way? In our next post, we’ll meet the magical creatures the three children are trying to save: the Paxterra Stone People!