Nieko is engaging young minds

No bridgesGreat engineering is critical to the success of transportation worldwide. Great engineering is dependent on great engineers. The ability to get kids excited about technical fields early in life will be key in the Iowa DOT’s ability to later hire these problem solvers to take our transportation system into a quickly changing future.

Nationally, the charge to increase education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) that will mold technical minds has brought much attention, but how early is too early to begin introducing our future engineers and scientists to the disciplines?

“I think early education in any field is critical,” said Stuart Nielsen, a bridge engineer in the Iowa DOT’s Office of Bridges and Structures. “But especially in math and science where kids can pick up a negative attitude as early as elementary school. The sooner they can be exposed to the fun and rewarding part of problem solving, the better.”

To further his goal of educating young minds and showcasing the fun that can be found in engineering, Nielsen has authored and illustrated children’s electronic book available on Amazon.


NieKo talks about the different bridge elements.

His first book, “NieKo, the Bridge Building Robot” went online Sept. 8. Nielsen said, “The book takes kids through the steps of a bridge being built. NieKo and his friends are shown building the bridge together and having a lot of fun along the way, including a little relaxation floating around the stream under the bridge.”

Comments on Amazon have been very positive, including, “I am not a child, but thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I had no idea how bridges were constructed and this gave a very clear and entertaining presentation. Illustrations were excellent.” And “What a fun & creative way to introduce engineering to kids! A wonderful read!”


Dudley is building a bridge over the Des Moines River.

Once the first NieKo book was completed, Nielsen started working on two more books in the series. The second book has Dudley, a 1938 steam-powered robot, building a truss bridge over the Des Moines River. Each book introduces the reader to different types of bridges and follows the history of bridge building. The second and third books in the series should be available by Christmas.

To find out more about these books, you can go to Nielsen’s website at



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