Guest Blog by Dominic Pitera, Fly with Maya Illustrator and Product Design Engineer at Apple, UW-Madison BSME 2011.
UW-Madison engineering alumna Kate Slattery saw a challenge in the engineering field. As a female engineer in a male-dominated industry, she recognized a need for diversity in the environment around her. In 2014, Kate came up with a creative idea.
Many children, especially young girls, grow up without being exposed to careers in the fields of science and engineering. They are blocked not by their capabilities or interests, but by a lack of awareness and inspiration. Armed with her passion for education and storytelling, Kate set out to create a children’s book series titled Fly with Maya. She decided that throughout the series, an adventurous young girl named Maya would travel the world in a hot air balloon, meeting engineers and learning about their lives and work along the way.
In 2015, Kate began writing the series and looking for an illustrator. Kate’s project and passion resonated strongly with me, and I was honored when she invited me to help. Shortly after we began working together on the project, my roommate, Alan Browning, joined in the effort to design and format the book and website. The experience was exciting, rewarding, and inspiring, as it allowed all of us to tie our engineering backgrounds to our interests and hobbies outside of our professional roles. As the author of the story, Kate led our efforts, and we made significant progress over the course of a year.
As we approached the completion of the first book in June of 2016, Kate suddenly passed away in a biking accident. Through the amazing support of her parents, brothers, extended family, and friends, we completed and launched Fly with Maya in July 2017 to be shared with the world. Although Kate’s kindness and passion for helping others will never be replaced, our goal is to help Fly with Maya reach the children Kate wanted to inspire. We also hope it will motivate others to break down the barriers between children and the STEM world, allowing girls and boys everywhere to realize their full potential.
Fly with Maya is available at www.flywithmaya.com along with more information on the project.