Recently, I came across a tiny (10 x 10cm) book called “Ich hab eine Freundin, die ist Geodätin” (“I have a friend, and she is a geodesist”), by Sylvia Schuster with drawings by Dorothea Tust. Virtually all of my colleagues were quite sentimental about this since it was published as a so-called ‘Pixi-book’. And Pixi-books, as I learned, are the de facto story books in Germany to explain children the joys and challenges of day-to-day life. Consequently, for most Germans, these books will cause pleasant vibes and leave them day-dreaming with early memories.
The book tells a story about a little girl called Jule, who visits a parcel, where her new home will be built. Accompanying Jule is her friend and geodesist Gaby, and together they use surveying instruments to place markers, so that the construction workers know where to build the house. Later on, by measuring the dimensions of a neighboring house of her friend Philipp, and the height of a newly built bridge, Gaby explains Jule the basic workings of a tachymeter and levelling instruments. A few days later, Jule is shown how the measured data is imported on the computer, and how maps are made from it.
To be honest, coming from an aerospace engineering background, I myself have not even as touched a tachymeter, and identifying myself with a surveyor seems a little farfetched. To me, a geodesist can do many other things besides traditional surveying, such as, for example, measuring Earth deformation changes caused by loading from the Earth’s water cycle. Nevertheless, I find this booklet very appealing for three reasons.
(1) It targets a very young audience, and provides them easy to understand narratives on the topic of geodesy. I see no harm in brainwashing the little ones a bit, as long as it is for the sake of understanding geodesy. And besides the kids, I’m sure that a lot of grown-ups can learn something from this 24 page booklet.
(2) A female is featuring as geodesist, actively engaging stereotypes. In a perfect world, this fact shouldn’t even have caught attention. But in reality, women are still underrepresented in these fields. I’m happy to acknowledge an exception though, as there are plenty of highly capable female co-workers in my direct working environment.
(3) It’s excellent communication material with a smile. I can only applaud this successful initiative of The German Association of Surveying (DVW, Hamburg). And I’m eagerly awaiting further editions like “I have a friend, and she is geoscientist’ or “I have a friend and she is a climate-scientist”.