Young People's Pavilion: Ellen Ochoa, Astronaut and Inventor

On April 6, 1993, Ellen Ochoa, a mission specialist, sat in the space shuttle Discovery, waiting for liftoff.
As the launchpad rumbled and the engines ignited, the Discovery soared upward into the sky. With this space shuttle launch, Ellen Ochoa became the first Latina to enter space. brilliant inventor and an experienced astronaut, Ochoa quickly moved up the ranks at NASA and toured schools throughout the country, encouraging students to follow their dreams.
In Ellen Ochoa: Astronaut and Inventor (Latino Biography Library) [Library Binding] - author Anne E. Schraff explores the life of this inspirational woman from her childhood California to her missions in space.

When asked which books have influenced or inspired them, many national and international leaders reply with the title of a biography or autobiography. It used to be common for young students to read Plutarch’s Lives or Shakespeare’s historical dramas. Nowadays, however, students are more apt to read about the lives of music or movie stars in popular magazines. Historical figures, encountered only briefly in textbooks, remain remote and drab, rather than vital human beings to whom students can personally relate. - Mary Lou Meerson, from Harcourt “Lives of” study guide.

That is why books like this are so important. Children canlearn how Ochoa received NASA awards including the Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four Space Flight Medals. They can grow to understand this recipient of numerous other awards, including the Harvard Foundation Science Award, Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, The Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award.

Readers will see why Ochoa was once named San Diego State University Alumna of the Year and why she has two schools named after her: Ellen Ochoa Middle School in Pasco, Washington, and the Ellen Ochoa Learning Center in Cudahy, California.

In Using Nonfiction Trade Books in the Elementary Classroom: From Ants to Zeppelins,
editors Evelyn B. Freeman, Diane G. Person, and Diane Goetz Person state:

Certainly, the basic purpose of nonfiction is to inform, to instruct, hopefully to enlighten. But that's not enough. An effective nonfiction book must animate its subject, infuse it with life, it must create a vivid and believable world that the reader will enter willingly and leave only with reluctance. A good nonfiction book should be a pleasure to read.
This biography utilizes writing style that is pleasurable and engaging. Students experience Ochoa, who was born in 1958 in Los Angeles, California, but considers La Mesa, California, to be her hometown. They can see how she is a classical flutist and private pilot, and also enjoys volleyball and bicycling. The real person comes out, behind the larger-than-life historical figure: Ochoa graduated from Grossmont High School, La Mesa, California; received a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State University; and a master of science degree and doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

Books like Ellen Ochoa: Astronaut and Inventor promote multicultural understanding. They contrinute to students' self esteem and awareness. They help children of diverse cultures appreciate the contributions of those who came before them.

As a doctoral student at Stanford, and later as a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center, Dr. Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing. She is a co-inventor on three patents for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and a method for noise removal in images. As Chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at Ames, she supervised 35 engineers and scientists in the research and development of computational systems for aerospace missions. Dr. Ochoa has presented numerous papers at technical conferences and in scientific journals.

Dr. Ochoa currently serves as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center.

It is clear by Schraff's writing that she has done her own research, visited original sites and reconstructed Ochoa's entire life span. The author's passion for this subject shines through the work, and she presents a clear vision for how to convey that passion in a way that encourages children's curiousity and wonder.