Texas Tech


research • scholarship • creative activity

Spring 2011

Elephants Build Future Engineers

Children's book introduces youngsters to the possibility of a career in engineering.

by Leslie Cranford

Engineering Elephants Front Cover

Engineers make elephants with long, swinging trunks. Wait a minute... do engineers really make elephants? No, but they do make roller coasters!

Thus starts the journey through "Engineering Elephants," a children's book co-authored by Michelle Pantoya, a professor of mechanical engineering at Texas Tech University, and Emily Hunt, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at West Texas A&M University.

"Children know doctors and teachers and police and firemen and soldiers, but not engineers," Pantoya said. "This is a way of introducing young children to engineering. Our goal is to inspire some of these young people to think about an engineer as something they want to be when they grow up."

Filling a Need

Between them, Pantoya and Hunt have seven children. The women discovered that there is a lack of children's books on engineering geared toward young children ages 4-8 and began work on the book about two years ago.

Watch on YouTube

Michelle Pantoya reads "Engineering Elephants" to children at the Texas Tech Child Development Research Center.

Video produced by Scott Irbeck, Office of Communications & Marketing.

"Engineering education is a growing issue in our nation, and all research points toward engaging children in engineering concepts when they are at these young, impressionable ages," Pantoya said. "When we ask kids what an engineer does, the answer is either 'I don't know,' or 'He drives a train.' So, Emily and I decided something needed to be done."


The book was recognized as a "Best Books 2010" Award finalist by USABookNews.com, the premiere online magazine and review website for mainstream and independent publishing houses.

Jeffrey Keen, president and CEO of USABookNews.com, said this year's contest yielded an unprecedented number of entries, which were then narrowed down to more than 500 winners and finalists in more than 140 categories covering print and audio books. Awards were presented for titles published in 2010 and late 2009.

A complete list of the winners and finalists of the USABookNews.com National "Best Books 2010" Awards are available online.

The book is available online at authorhouse.com and at amazon.com.


Michelle Pantoya

Michelle Pantoya was chosen as a 2010 Integrated Scholar by the Office of the Provost for her work in mechanical engineering, where she studies the synthesis and explosive properties of materials, and her extracurricular work of educating young children on the concepts of engineering, with her children's books. As a result of her work in energetic material combustion, she has helped make the weapons system used by the U.S. Department of Defense safer, more reliable, and mobile, and in turn helped protect soldiers, citizens, and our national security.

Watch her Integrated Scholar Video on YouTube.

Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925. Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.

Find out more about the College of Engineering at Texas Tech.

Leslie Cranford is a Sr. Writer in the Office of Communications & Marketing at Texas Tech University.

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Nov 24, 2015