KIA ORA, KIA ORANA AND HELLO!
My name is Joyana Finch. I was raised in Rarotonga, Cook Islands and moved to New Zealand in 2009 to study ‘Mechatronic Engineering’ at the University of Auckland.
Today, I work remotely as an engineer and live in beautiful Blenheim in the South Island. I have three young daughters (5yo, 3yo and 9mo). I am a board member of the Engineering Associates Registration Board, which is a crown entity and since the beginning of 2021, I have written science books for children.
In uni, I belonged to the SPIES organization (South Pacific Island Engineering Students) where we focused on providing a support network for pasifika students embarking on the technical degree. We were without question, the minority in the technical sector. The necessity for encouragement and support for future pasifika folk in tech was starkly obvious.
When I graduated, the University of Auckland informed myself that I was the first pasifika female IN HISTORY to obtain a mechatronics degree. And only the second pasifika person at all. I’ve used that achievement as a personal sign that times are changing for our people and the message must get out that we are completely capable if we wish to pursue a career in that sector.
Throughout my career, I have been a CNC-Laser machine technician, an electrical draftsman, a low level controls commissioning engineer, a SCADA engineer, an Emulation engineer and a manager of a high level controls department. My career has allowed me to travel the world while growing my technical capabilities and personally, I could not have imagined a more fulfilling path as a young adult.
THIS IS WHAT I HAVE DONE…
Since I’ve become a mum, it is so important to me to ensure that the young generation (especially our pasifika tamariki) have the chance to enjoy the same tech opportunities that I was fortunate enough to experience.
As an answer to the necessary encouragement and promotion that was observed throughout my studies and career… I decided to start sewing into the minds and interests of our very young children and start instilling a confidence in science and tech topics before those areas become too ‘complex and scary’ to consider later on in life.
I’ve created science books for early learners. Yes there are already ‘science books for babies’ available, but none that kept bubs interested the way farm animals, mermaids and unicorns did.
Figure 2- Current TRIO Set of Science Book for Bubs
‘Buzz the Electron’ introduces basic concepts of electricity such as electrons, voltage, circuits, voltage sources (like batteries), voltage drop (across a light bulb).
‘Violet the Photon’ introduces basic concepts of visible light such as electromagnetic waves, frequencies of coloured light, the speed of light, how rainbows are created via refraction.
‘Bucky the Carbon Atom’ introduces some basic chemistry such as atomic structure, the periodic table and covalent bonding.
I am currently working on the fourth book in this STEM series called ‘Ada The AI’. This book will introduce the concept of neural networks, data training and the potential of AI. I am aiming to have this book released by May 2023.
I originally intended these books for 0 – 6yrs of age, but have been getting feedback from parents of primary school and high school students really appreciating the simplification of what they themselves thought to be a fairly complex topic.
I am also unashamedly sharing the fact that a NASA engineer (@yourfemaleengineer) gave the books her thumbs up and shared her thoughts on instagram!
And Last year, these books also graced the pages of the Scholastic Book Orders being exposed to children in schools all over NZ.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
In today’s ever-evolving technological world, there are two main driving goals behind the design of my STEM books.
1. To normalize and make science LIKE-ABLE
When it comes to early childhood education, I believe it is so important to show science in a fun and absolutely non-threatening light. So much that children will choose to read about an electron or a photon, just as much as they want to hear about animals and Santa.
To achieve the above, I’ve ensured the following:
- Use of friendly captivating colours and illustrations
- Use of rhythm and rhyme – Children remember a lot more when things rhyme. It also keeps things fun for parents and teachers during story time.
- Keeping the story short and sweet - The story is only 14 pages long.
- Introduce basic science topics and jargon - Key words are highlighted throughout the story.
- Inclusion of a technical glossary – This is to help non-tech parents answer any questions from curious tots.
2. To include and encourage Pasifika into the STEM world
Pasifika people are still a minority in the tech industries. The few Polynesian engineers and programmers I have had the pleasure of meeting in my journey, have been such high performers.
I know we as a people are capable and it saddens me to think that there are tamariki out there that will miss out on contributing and getting satisfaction out of the tech world simply because they weren’t aware of the option.
Starting with the very young, I want to mix ideas of science and pasifika together.
I’ve tried to accomplish this by:
Featuring my story in the end
- I am female pasifika mechatronic engineer
- The first female pasifika, in history, to graduate with that degree
- Being a commissioning engineer, I was able to travel the world.
Featuring some pasifika culture comparison in each book.
- Cook Islands (Violet the Photon sways back and forth like the Rarotongan sway)
- NZ Maori (Bucky the Carbon Atom shares electrons with other atoms much like playing the maori Tititorea stick game)
- Samoa (As graphite, Bucky the Carbon Atom (Part 2) slides gracefully across adjacent carbon layers like a samoan siva dance