Student’s book encourages young girls to pursue their ambitions

Sierra+Marie+Bonn+published+her+book%2C+%22Innovators%3A+Women+in+History+Who+Have+Made+Positive+Contributions+to+STEAM%22+earlier+this+month.

Courtesy of Sierra Marie Bonn

Sierra Marie Bonn published her book, "Innovators: Women in History Who Have Made Positive Contributions to STEAM" earlier this month.

In July 2018, Sierra Marie Bonn chose to compete in the Miss Kansas pageant. When asked about her platform, Bonn, now a Wichita State senior, immediately thought of her passion: empowering young women to pursue careers in STEAM.

STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics. In hopes of further encouraging young women, Bonn wrote, illustrated, and published her own book, called “Innovators: Women in History Who Have Made Positive Contributions to STEAM,” which was released earlier this month.

“I really wanted to highlight those influential women in science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, to be role models for other young girls or really for anyone to look up to — to dismantle these stereotypes one story at a time,” Bonn said.

Bonn primarily wrote her book for fourth-grade girls.

“Fourth grade is about the time we see the gender disparity in these STEAM fields start to really become known,” Bonn said. “The science does show that it used to be the sixth grade that this gender disparity was known, but for some reason, it’s been rolled back two years. So my intention with my book was for a young fourth-grade girl who is a prime target of not feeling empowered to achieve whatever her dreams are, can read this book and be like, ‘Heddy Lamarr is a computer scientist and an actress? That is so cool; I want to be just like her!’ She can start to see her potential to succeed.”

Bonn began working towards her idea of writing a book in July 2018 when she started her blog: Let’s Go Full Steam Ahead. In her blog, Bonn highlights different women who have made positive contributions to the STEAM fields.

“About a year after that, in July 2019, I thought, ‘This could be more. It would be really cool if this could publish. I want to make this information accessible to as many people as possible,’” Bonn said.

She said she thought a book could better reach her target audience of young girls.

“I’m not sure how many of them are scrolling through wordpress right now, so I figured a book would be a really good idea.”

Last winter, Bonn sat down and put in the time and energy required to bring her idea to fruition.

“I realized that one of the barriers to entry when it comes to STEAM fields is not having the educational access, not having scholarships, not having the awareness that it is a field you can join — the lack of exposure,” Bonn said. “I was like, ‘I’d really like for the proceeds of this book to be a fundraiser’ and that’s essentially what it has turned into right now.”

For every book purchased, Bonn donates one to either a local school or somewhere else, per the customer’s request. Leftover proceeds from print costs go to a scholarship for young women pursuing STEAM, the Children’s Miracle Network, and the Miss America Scholarship fund.

Within two weeks of its publishing, Bonn’s book has spread not only through Kansas, but also into Oklahoma, Virginia, and even Haiti.

“My intention with writing the book was to create something that, one: highlighted these influential innovators, two: breaks down these stereotypes and what makes a successful innovators, and three: empower the next generation of innovators,” Bonn said.

While doing research for her next blog post in 2018, Bonn came across Ada Lovelace, an 1800s mathematician known for her contribution to Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. Lovelace is now recognized as one of the world’s first computer programmers who heavily influenced the beginning creation of the computer.

Bonn also discovered that Lovelace is celebrated every year on the second Tuesday of October.

“It’s an international holiday, but hardly anyone in the United States celebrates it because no one knows about it, and I thought that has to change,” Bonn said. “In 2018 and 2019, I proposed a women in STEAM week. It’s a whole week dedicated to honoring women who made positive contributions to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.”

She started pursuing her new mission in her hometown; Augusta, Kansas. Feeling encouraged by the approval of both her mother and the mayor, Bonn decided to take her initiative to the state level.

“I ended up going to the Statehouse and presented it to the governor, and she signed into a proclamation,” Bonn said.

Therefore, Women in STEAM Week will now officially be celebrated in Kansas on the third week of October.

Bonn was able to balance her Miss Southwestern 2020 responsibilities, work, classes, updating her blog, and publishing her book all at the same time.

“I’m not going to lie — it is very challenging,” Bonn said. “It has been a learning process for me.”

But her passion drives her to achieve her goals.

“I got to be a part of a really cool project last year for Women’s Month where we highlighted women at Wichita State who were doing really cool things . . . Being able to highlight those women at work has continued my passion there,” Bonn said.

“If I wasn’t excited about what I get to do everyday in all of those areas, I don’t think I would be able to balance it as well [as I do],” Bonn said.

WSU recognises Bonn’s book project as an applied learning experience, so her workplace, WSU Ventures, is helping fund the project through grants. These grants go towards printing costs.

“I do want to say thank you to them for supporting this mission,” Bonn said. “It’s been really surreptitious and fortuitous. It’s been really awesome to be a part of.”

Bonn is currently working towards making Let’s Go Full Steam Ahead into a non-profit. Readers can purchase her book at letsgofullsteamahead.com.