Teacher Stories: Dr. Chris Masullo, STEM Teacher at Memorial Middle School, Hackensack and Math Professor at Passaic Community College
I have just written and published a book for kids, called, “Are You My Motherboard?” It’s supposed to be an homage to Dr. Seuss’s, “Are You My Mother?” In Dr. Seuss’s book, a bird is going around asking everyone, “Are you my mother? Are you my mother?” In my book, it is about a boy who wants nothing more than to build his own computer. So one night he goes to bed and has a dream where he starts seeing all the different computer parts. He asks each of them, “Are you my mother?” And they answer, ‘No I am not your mother, I am the processor,” or, “I am the RAM,” or, “I am the CPU.” And finally, at the end he gets to the motherboard and he wakes up and he knows how to build a computer, and he runs to the store and he gets all the parts and he builds his very own computer.
I look at the book as a fun way for kids to learn about computers and how to build them themselves, and also as older people reading and then remembering what it was like when they learned about computers. The book came about because as a teacher I actually have students build computers. The boys’ name is Artie, and he is named after one of my students that I had at the time I wrote the book. I would get old, salvaged computers that we would tear apart and build new ones out of.
I had two illustrators work with me on the book. Working with the illustrators was such a unique experience for me. I had my own ideas how I wanted the book to look, and on my timetable, and they really did it at their own pace. I am a math/computer guy; they are artists, and we were polar opposites, but I have to say they were really cool. I would literally take some computer parts, throw them on the table, and take a picture with my phone, send them the photo, and the next thing I knew, they had rendered it in 3D. I was wowed! I was so impressed to see the full color pages with the 2-dimensional character and the 3D background. I was so pleased with the way it came out. The book is good for elementary aged kids.
I would do public readings of the book, like at a public library, and we actually build a computer while we read the story, which is actually what the book is designed to do: teach you how to build your own computer. We would actually call the students up to assemble the computer piece by piece. So, by the end of the story we had a fully functioning, like-new, working computer. We actually built three, and we raffled each one off.
Editor’s note: We are pleased to have Dr. Chris Masullo as a frequent contributor to the Plymouth Rock Teachers’ Lounge. Read some of his blogs and lesson plans here.
- Interview by Gregory Andrus of Portraits of the Jersey Shore.