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Read to Get Ready for STEAM Fest!: Picture Book Biographies of STEAM Pioneers

by Anne Wilmoth on May 15th, 2017

There’s nothing I love more than a good picture book biography of a little-known historical figure; something that makes you let out a surprised “Huh!” when you turn the final page.

In honor of this week’s STEAM Festival for children (that’s Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) here are a handful of books on STEAM trailblazers that promise to fascinate the adult reading them aloud just as much as the child listening.

ThThumbnaile Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman

When Paul Erdos was four years old, he liked to amuse strangers by asking them their age, then announcing how many seconds they’d been alive, after just a moment of mental calculation.  Paul grew up into a brilliant but eccentric mathematician – “he didn’t fit into the world in a regular way” and needed his mother and friends to see to his basic needs – who traveled the world working with other mathematicians, doing math up to nineteen hours a day, and coming up with new kinds of math.  Numbers are sprinkled throughout this simply-told, charming story.

Thumbnail Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?: The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell by Tanya Lee Stone

Society tried to thwart her at every turn, but the first female doctor in America (she graduated from medical school in 1849), wouldn’t be dissuaded.  In a situation that seems laughable today but was all to real in our country’s history, all the other tenants in the building where she opened her first practice were so horrified that they immediately moved out.  Today, more than half of all U.S. medical school students are women, thanks to Elizabeth Blackwell.

Thumbnail Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wellmark

Who wouldn’t be fascinated by trying to wrap their mind around the leap from the first computer to the sophisticated, lightning-fast information machine that we all now carry around in our pocket?  Women have been instrumental in computer technology since its inception, starting with Ada Byron Lovelace.  This thinker, tinkerer, and girl fascinated by numbers went on to write the algorithm that allowed her colleague’s Thinking Machine to work – making her the world’s first computer programmer.

Thumbnail Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis

The Ferris wheel, that mainstay of summer amusement parks across America, got its start at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., a mechanical engineer, won a contest seeking a design more spectacular than the Eiffel Tower, which had wowed attendees at the previous World’s Fair.  The fair committee thought his design couldn’t possibly work and refused to give him the money to build it.  George, despite being laughed out of most banks, eventually secured a loan and paid for the wheel himself; he and wife took the first ride.  The story of this feat of engineering and nostalgic piece of Americana is depicted in illustrations washed in blue and purple that evoke twilight at a state fair, alongside text bursting with fascinating bits of detail.

Thumbnail Balloons Over Brodway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The little boy who designed a rope-and-pulley system so he could feed the family’s chickens while lying in bed grew up to become the entirely self-taught “father of American puppetry,” the man behind those giant character balloons that millions of people watch on TV every Thanksgiving.  When Tony Sarg came to America, he designed mechanical marionettes for a Macy’s window display.  Later, Macy’s asked him to come up with something more spectacular for the parade than live animals, which were frightening the children – and Tony Sarg’s innovative balloons have risen on Thanksgiving Day every year since 1928.

After finding some inspiration in these books, come down to ICPL’s STEAM Festival and do some problem-solving and discovery of your own!  The STEAM Festival takes place on Friday, May 19 from 9:30-2:30 and Saturday, May 20 from 10-4.

STEAMfestival @ Iowa City Public Library May 20

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on May 4th, 2017

Its full steam ahead for the Iowa City Public Library’s first-ever STEAMfestival!steamfestival_0

Come to the Library on Saturday, May 20, anytime between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for fun, adventures and activities that encompass all things STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

Start your adventure at ICPL’s STEAM Engine. Our main floor meeting rooms will be transformed into a train transporting all curious passengers on an expedition of knowledge. Continue your journey outside to the Ped Mall and MERGE, where the National Center for Science Education Science Booster Club, the University of Iowa College of Engineering, Iowa City Parks and Recreation, Alliant Energy, MERGE, and the Grout Museum of History and Science will provide a variety of hands-on activities. Climate change, genetics, wind energy, pressurized rockets and coding are just a few of the topics you’ll explore.

Don’t forget to trek back to ICPL’s Storytime Room for Absolute Science with Rick Eugene Brammer at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. This fun and educational program encourages children of all ages to be engaged in the world of science through demonstrations and experiments, including Dry Ice Exploration and Fantastic Foam.

The STEAMfestival @ Iowa City Public Library is made possible with the generous support of the Community Foundation of Johnson County and the Bywater Family Endowment Fund, the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Iowa City Public Library Friends Foundation, and the Rev. Dr. Barbara Schlachter Memorial Fund.

For more information, contact the Library at 319-356-5200.




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