A group of elementary school children and their parents gathered around Komal Singh as she read aloud from her new children’s book at Linden Tree Books. Visiting Los Altos on her fall book tour, she shared several passages from “Ara the Star Engineer” before pulling out a virtual-reality headset for the kids to experience.
An engineering program manager at Google Inc., Singh is all about tech – the inspiration for her book. Singh said her love of science, technology, engineering and math, and a desire to introduce the subjects to kids – especially girls and children of color – drove her to write “Ara.” Singh added that she was also motivated by her 4-year-old daughter’s assumption that “engineers are boys.”
The book’s title character and protagonist is a young girl who seeks a way to count all of the stars in the sky. Ara and her sidekick droid, DeeDee, embark on an adventure to discover an algorithm to do just that. Along the way, they meet real-life women from Google.
Those characters are all Bay Area residents who really do work for the tech giant: Kripa Krishnan, senior director of technical program management; Parisa Tabriz, engineering director; Diane Tang, a Google fellow; and Marian Croak, vice president of engineering.
“Ara” is more than just a book – it comes with an attached notebook and downloadable activity sheets for children to learn from.
Singh, who grew up in India, was inspired by her engineer father to pursue a career in software design.
“I really admired my dad’s technical know-how and problem-solving skills,” said Singh, who now lives in Ontario, Canada.
Growing up, Singh said there was negative stigma against women in STEM fields.
“All throughout my high school, undergrad and grad school, being a girl or woman meant you were a minority,” she recalled. “Some teachers (even) thought it was a fluke when we got some questions on quizzes right.”
But that mentality is changing, according to Singh, who sees more equality in the tech world these days.
“I feel that growth happens in spirals, and I do think this is an upward spiral,” she said. “We are moving up, but there’s still lots more to be done.”
Singh isn’t done writing books. She hopes to write more children’s books to inspire kids – boys and girls – to be open to STEM fields.
“Ara” is available at Linden Tree Books, 265 State St., and online at amazon.com.
For more information on Singh and her book, visit