Reviewed by Steve Canipe
Director, Science, Mathematics & Instructional Design Technology
Save the Earth! That's a call that intrigues middle school students and this book is designed to provide that kind of excitement and intrigue for the young adolescent.
Today we often hear that there is no comfortable future available for our children; certainly not as good as we have had it. They will never do as well as their parents' generation has done. This book is an attempt to open up a possible future path that has a dual role of being very useful and being one that can lead to both a fulfilling and economically rewarding career.
There is so much being written today about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) but not as much talk about what types of careers might actually be available. The focus of the book is not really new but is a renewed focus of how the study of engineering and engineering principles can make a difference to the health of our planet. While the book makes some assumptions concerning the need to be more ecologically focused, these points are not over–bearing, thus making the book acceptable to almost all parties in the environmental debate.
It is important for every teacher to realize that students need to take to heart what the advertising for the book notes "…find your dream job—a career that is not only good for the environment but good for you too." Baine is not only an engineer in her own right she is also an advocate for her profession. Because of that advocacy, the book is valuable to young people at a time when many are making crucial career decisions. She notes in the book that many of the jobs that might become available in the next 10 years have not even been invented yet.
Baine creates a very readable treatise on engineering in all its aspects, from transportation and building to energy and natural resources. She is an eloquent spokesperson for the value of an engineering viewpoint and even has an interview with another engineer to help make an engineering career choice personal. The book is not earth–shattering in its focus or conclusions, but it is a clear exposé on the various types of engineering that will probably be key when this current set of middle school students make their final career choices and enter college and the job market.
All the current hot topics like geothermal, solar, and wind are mentioned and some information is provided to entice thoughts of further research/work possibilities. The research aspect is aided through a good bibliography and listing of websites to visit. In addition to the current topics that are a focus of the various chapters, including green buildings with LEED certifications, the last chapters of the book may be the most intriguing for thinking in innovative ways and moving forward.
Chapter Five describes studying biomimicry and the potential for advancements coming from this line of research. One specific example mentioned was the study of shark skin and the design of new swimming suits used in the Olympics allowing faster speeds in the pool. Some more practical applications include the study of termites for creating more energy efficient buildings in Zimbabwe which use only 35 percent of the energy in comparable buildings designed without "termite–influence." Another example uses study of the common locust to help in designing the car avoidance systems we see in luxury cars today and which will make its way to economy cars. These possibilities and others mentioned tie together biology and engineering in ways that STEM was intended to do.
This is an excellent book for a classroom shelf focused on careers or in the school media center. Students thinking and looking for career possibilities can have good information helping them make career choices, which in cases like this, can make a difference in keeping the planet healthy. The only change to the book to make it more attractive would be better illustrations and clearer photographs. Every middle school should have this book.
Review posted on 9/14/2012