Who doesn’t like to read comics?
Author Jeff Kinney has inspired a whole new generation of reluctant young readers through his Diary of a Wimpy Kid series – graphic novels illustrated with his own cartoon characters.
Comics can be used to make tough concepts—like reading or science and engineering—more entertaining for young people, and a new comic featuring superheroes is using this concept to get kids involved with STEM.
Funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the United Kingdom, the Herolab project is delivered by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), and hopes to expose young readers to the depth and breadth of engineering. It does this by incorporating real-world research into the powers of superheroes and supervillains in its Herolab comic.
Engineering lecturer Matt Dickinson came up with the idea for Herolab in collaboration with Jo Heaton-Marriot. Both work at UCLan and are concerned about the lack of engineers graduating from universities as compared to the available engineering jobs. They believe that by encouraging young children to think about science and engineering, they can help steer some kids toward engineering careers.
In the first issue of the comic series, Matt finds himself transformed into both a hero, Mecha-Man, and his nemesis, Doktor Darkness. Dickinson explains: “Relating science to magical superpowers allows us to share some really detailed information on a level that primary-school children will not only understand but be inspired by.”
The Herolab project follows Dickinson’s successful Science of Superheroes show where he uncovers the science facts behind the science fiction of many well-known characters such as Spider-Man, Wolverine and Iron Man.
The online comic strip is designed by former Marvel and DC Comics illustrators Andy Lanning and Anthony Williams, who have illustrated and written comic classics including The Avengers, Batman, Captain America, Superman, Iron Man and X-Men.
Techie terms such as 3D printing, biomaterial, laser scanning, and dark matter flow easily through the first edition of the comic. Next, Herolab wants kids to design their own superhero or supervillain. These characters can be submitted via an online contest, and the winners will have their characters incorporated into future installments of the comic. And, here’s where the science knowledge comes in – all characters must have super powers based on real-life science.
The deadline for character entries is February 28, 2014 and is open to kids aged 11 or under. Ten winners will see their characters developed by Herolab’s artists and be featured in the comic series.
Image courtesy of Herolab