Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today, I’m delighted to interview the founder of STEM Tuesday, Jennifer Swanson!
Jennifer is a huge fan of STEM and loves to write about technical topics. She did just that in her SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up! book with Charlesbridge Publishing.
A book about nanotechnology and sports… how did you put those two topics together?
Well I’ve always loved technonogy and I love sports, too. In fact, I’ve played tons of sports my whole life. Those I haven’t played, I’ve watched. I’m a huge fan of the Olympics, too. We used to watch it as a family. Do you remember when Michael Phelps wore that full-body swimsuit in the 2008 Beijing Olympics? I do! It was fabulous and he won tons of medals with it. So did his teammates. Sooo many records were broken that year. I was definitely intrigued. What was that amazing swimsuit made of? Turns out, it was developed with nanotechnology.
Did you know anything about nanotechnology at the time?
Not much. But as I said, I was very intrigued by the suit, so I set about learning more. That’s how I am with pretty much all of the topics I write. I read about something cool in the news and I just have to learn more about it. You know, understand how it works and also WHY it works. Usually as I learn more, I get really excited about the technology and all of the applications it has and then, well, I have to write about it. That’s what happened with this book!
Nanotechnology is a pretty technical topic. Was it difficult to sell this idea?
Sort of. I mean, when you have a fairly technical topic, you really have to come up with a great hook. One that will cause even people who aren’t interested in STEM to be intrigued by your topic. The best way I’ve found to get editors and agents interested in technical topics is to put the hook in the title. A great title grabs their attention fast! And that gets them to read the rest of your proposal. So, that’s a good first step. (Of course, the writing is everything, so the rest of your proposal has to be written well, too).
What are some cool things you learned about sports and the nanomaterials that are used in them?
First of all, this book came out a few years back, so the applications for nanomaterials have actually expanded significantly since then. Nanotechnology is used to create almost all of the materials in many different sports. It allows for stronger, more durable, and yet flexible materials, which then support athletes in their performance.
For example, golf is one sport that uses a lot of nanotechnology in its materials. Everything from the dimples on the ball, to the core inside the golf ball, to the head and shaft of the golf club is specially designed with nanomaterials, like carbon fibers. This allows players to hit the ball farther, higher, and with much more accuracy than ever before. Just do an internet search of golf balls and nanotechnology and see how many different balls use the words nanotech or carbon fibers, or graphene. It’s pretty incredible.
Nanotechnology is in so many other objects, too. How did you decide on sports as your focus?
Well, aside from loving sports, I figured that was my biggest hook. Yes, nanomaterials are used in many objects in medicine, recycling, and even in energy. But the one topic I thought might most resonate with kids was sports.
And then I played up that connection in my proposal. I did a search for sports words and phrases like Team Up! and Play Ball and Tee it Up, etc. I find that makes people smile when they read and also shows that I did my research on the topic.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
I hope they find nanotechnology as exciting as I do. That they learn about these cool materials and also that they think about the engineering that made them every time they pick up a bat, golf club, tennis racket or put on a swimsuit.
Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in the fascinating 45 nonfiction books she has written for children.
Learn more about Jennifer at www.jenniferswansonbooks.com
Check out her two new STEM books releasing this year!