While you usually expected steam to only occur above 100℃, Ayonnah Tinsley is showing how STEAM (science, tech, engineering, art, and mathematics) exists in our every day lives.
Ayonnah Tinsley is a 17-year-old student advocate for STEAM and has even published her own children’s book in order to showcase diversity in STEAM careers to inspire younger students! Ayonnah is passionate about STEAM education and has spoken at several schools to show students the impact STEAM has in our everyday lives. On weekends, Ayonnah volunteers at the Air and Space Museum. Although COVID has impacted many in-person workshops and conferences, she’s been able to continue advocating for STEAM education by hosting virtual events for elementary schools.
Although YaYaStars started as a travel review site when Ayonnah was just 8 (!), it’s become a platform sharing STEAM resources and advocating for STEM education. In August 2019, Ayonnah published her first children’s book, “This Is What an Engineer Looks Like,” to show diversity in STEAM and educate children on careers.
How did you get started with YaYaStars?
It actually started out as a travel review site for kids by kids. But my mission has changed over the years and has grown with me, so now it’s my social media handle for my account where I talked about diversity in STEAM and showcase my books and art work.
How was publishing “This Is What an Engineer Looks Like” while still in high school and what inspired you to write it?
Figuring out how to publish my children’s book with balancing classes, sports, and clubs was not an easy task. I went through hundreds of different videos trying to decide the direction with self-publishing I wanted to go in, and ultimately finding out the easiest path in which to accomplish publishing my book. I think that this process was such a frustrating but at the same time fun experience, so I am currently working on resources to help other students figure out how to self-publish.
What inspired me to write my children’s book was the fact that growing up the children’s books I saw in libraries never really focused on having diverse characters or show girls working in STEAM jobs. So I wanted to take a risk and create a book I wish I had so hopefully I can encourage more younger students to view STEAM in a new light and emphasize the importance of diversity.
How is working with younger kids to introduce them to STEAM?
I enjoy working with younger kids because you can always trust them to tell the truth (fortunately they have all liked my book) and it is so rewarding to see their faces light up when they learn something new. I also like working with younger students when introducing STEAM because it is so easy to show the many ways STEAM jobs and science theories impact our lives everyday.
One of my favorite examples to share with younger students is how Bernoulli’s principle (explains the lifting force for airplanes) is similar to riding a bike up a hill!
How did you get into STEM?
I knew I wanted to pursue a STEM career since I was in third grade and I took my first trip to the Air and Space Museum. I was fascinated by all of the different airplanes but what really got my attention was this movie playing in the IMAX that showed how aeronautical engineering can be connected to music, art, and nature. What helped me continue to stay interested in STEM was going to different workshops and interviews in middle school where I got the opportunity to meet so many engineers with diverse backgrounds, which helped me solidify my passion because I was able to see more of STEM beyond just lab coats and stereotypes.
Who inspires you in STEM?
Danni Washington and my volunteer supervisor, Jenn McIntosh, inspire me when it comes to STEM. Getting to see someone with similar hair like mine and an amazing fashion style on screen talk about science was so cool for me to see because the media normally doesn’t show scientists dressed like this. Jenn McIntosh inspires me in STEM because she is constantly teaching me how connected STEM is in our everyday activities. When she shows me these connections, it helps me teach principles of flight to younger students at the Air and Space museum.
What’s been your most exciting experience in STEM so far?
It’s actually really hard to pick from my most exciting experience in STEM. But my top three are being invited to the NASA Headquarters in Washington DC by the chief of staff, getting to talk about my STEAM children’s book on TV, and getting to do a mini book tour during the school year for elementary schools in my county.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I have ever received was that I am only competing with myself so it’s no use comparing myself to others. I tend to overthink a lot so my parents and coaches are constantly telling me this advice in some form so it helps me focus on what I can control because obviously I can’t control what others do.