Child reading STEM Squad comic book

Tim Peake turned into comic book character; IET launches ‘Super Realoes’ competition

Image credit: Ken Copsey, The IET

British astronaut Tim Peake has been turned into a superhero character in a comic book devised by the IET. It is hoped this new comic book will help encourage children to take an interest in the world of STEM.

Peake, who became the first British astronaut to walk in space, has been rebranded as Orbital in the new comic book called the ‘STEM Squad’, which highlights the work of prominent people working in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

“I’m so excited to have been invited to join the STEM Squad,” he said. “I’ve always loved superheroes but never imagined I could get to become one someday, let alone Orbital, helping to defeat elemental climate change monsters.”

The 49-year-old from Chichester, who is also an Honorary Fellow of the IET, features in the comic book alongside coding entrepreneur June Angelides; engineer Shrouk El-Attar, and bionics educator James Young, who is a double amputee. The comic sees the team come together as a team to tackle a giant smog monster threatening to destroy one of the world’s biggest solar farms.

“My fascination with science and engineering began when I was at school and I feel passionately about getting more young people to share my love for STEM,” Peake said. “Future generations will face all kinds of hero-worthy challenges; from climate change to establishing human colonies on Mars. There really is an entire world of possibilities for them to explore and STEM will be with them every step of the way.”

Front cover of the STEM Squad comic book

Image credit: Ken Copsey, The IET

The project comes after research from the IET suggested most do not realise comic book characters such as Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are scientists or engineers; there is a disconnect between children’s love for superheroes and their attitudes towards their engineering alter-egos.

According to the study of 1,000 children aged 5-13 by the IET, whilst over 90 per cent of children think superheroes are “cool”, it’s the costume and their ability to save the world they admire most as opposed to their intelligence or technical know-how.

The study findings form the basis of the IET’s newly commissioned ‘Super Realoes’ report, which explores why young people feel so differently about the fantasy of superheroes compared to the world of science and engineering and real-life STEM heroes.

As part of the project, the IET teamed up with comic book artists Andy Lanning and Ant Williams, who have worked on comics featuring the likes of Captain America and The Hulk, to bring the comic book to life. The comics will also be expanded into a ‘DM Universe’ (the Difference Makers’ Universe) as part of the IET’s Engineer and Better World campaign.

Coinciding with the ‘Super Realoes’ report, the IET has launched a competition challenging children to design their own superhero gadget that can make a positive impact on the world around them. The winner will have a real-life prototype of their gadget made and be turned into a new superhero character in ‘the DM Universe’ comic strip, the IET said.

Professor Danielle George, IET president, said: “Superheroes are a huge part of culture - loved by parents and children alike - but whilst many of the plots and characters have STEM at their core, this isn’t wholly recognised or celebrated. We want to use superheroes to supercharge STEM, champion the diverse role models doing amazing things in science and engineering, and show to young people the many similarities between the two worlds.

“In bridging the STEM-superhero gap, we hope to inspire children to reconsider a career in engineering and technology, paving the way for our next-generation of vaccine discoverers, environmentalists, astronauts, and tech entrepreneurs. With superhero technology already sharping modern science and engineering, they really will be ‘Super-Realoes’ and difference-makers!”

The competition will be open for entries for children aged 5-13 between 8 September and 13 October. Entries will be judged by IET president Danielle George; ‘STEM Squad’ member James Young; mechanical engineer and report co-author Matt Dickinson, and the comic book artists.

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