STEM Tuesday — STEM in Sports — Interview with Author Janet Slingerland

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Janet Slingerland, author of The 12 Biggest Breakthroughs in Sports Technology.

Mary Kay Carson: Tell us a bit about The 12 Biggest Breakthroughs in Sports Technology?  

Janet Slingerland: The book looks at sports-related cutting-edge technology through the years. Like its name implies, these were the 12 break-through technologies that I thought had the biggest impact on the world of sports. It’s written for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12), but hopefully it engages readers outside that range, too.

MKC: Do you play sports or are you a big sports fan?

Janet: My father was a gym teacher and track coach, so it’s probably not surprising that I played sports. My favorite sport to play, by far, was volleyball. I’ve always enjoyed playing more than watching, although I have enjoyed watching a wide variety of sports over the years. I especially love the Olympics, where we see sports that are more difficult to watch on a more regular basis.

MKC: What was challenging about writing the book?

Janet: I found trying to select the 12 “biggest” breakthroughs to be challenging. To make the decision, I considered how many people the breakthrough impacted and in what way. Some made the sport more accessible to people. Others were geared toward elite athletes, but are life-saving. Yet others make sports more enjoyable (and understandable) for fans to watch.

MKC: This book is packed full of facts! Would you like to share a favorite research discovery?

Janet:  I think the thing that amazed me most was how long ago sports science originated. The study of how exercise changes the human body started when gladiators were fighting in the Roman coliseum. It may actually go even further back than that, but there are detailed records from gladiator times. Realizing the first indoor ice skating rink was built before electricity is a little mind-blowing, too. Here’s a really interesting article on the first skating rinks.

Janet Slingerland studied electrical engineering and programmed computers before deciding to share her love of STEM (and other things) with children. She has written more than 20 nonfiction books for grades K-12. Visit her at

MKC: What inspires you to write about STEM subjects?

Janet:  My background is in engineering and embedded programming (writing code for microchips that go inside things). I’ve always been fascinated by how science explains so many things that seem like magic. The puzzle-lover in me drew me to engineering. I started writing STEM books so I could share these loves with kids (and parents/teachers).

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about how everything is interconnected. So many people think they don’t like STEM, but it’s tied to everything. We hear music thanks to the physics of sound and the biology behind how our ears work. We see rainbows and blue skies thanks to the physics of light, the chemistry of the air the light passes through, and the biology behind how our eyes perceive color. Everything in our lives has ties to STEM.


Win a FREE copy of The 12 Biggest Breakthroughs in Sports Technology!

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Your host is Mary Kay Carson, author of Wildlife Ranger Action Guide, The Tornado ScientistAlexander Graham Bell for Kids, Mission to Pluto, and other nonfiction books for kids. @marykaycarson

STEM Tuesday
STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE! Join us each week as a group of dedicated STEM authors highlight FUN topics, interesting resources, and make real-life connections to STEM in ways that may surprise you. #STEMRocks!
  1. A really fascinating subject. When I watch hockey now everything is different from when I was a kid. The sticks, skates, pads, even the ice is completely changed. Very cool, thanks!

    • You’re our winner, Carl! Congrats!

  2. STEM topics are my favorite to study, research, and write about. I love to play and watch sports, so this book will be fun reading and learning for me. I enjoyed reading how this author narrowed her choices with excellent variety of reasons.