Innovate (“in Nov 8”) Today: National STEM Day!
Today is November 8th, National STEM/STEAM Day, and we wanted to take a moment to recognize those working hard to advance these learning objectives and share a few ways you can get involved!
21 years ago, back in 2001, the National Science Foundation officially recognized a term to help identify a growing challenge in the educational paths and passions of American youth. I, for one, am very glad they coined this term encompassing science, technology, engineering, and math—STEM.
Now, decades later, and with the addition ‘art’ often in the acronym, STEAM initiatives drive a wide variety of activities in and around schools to develop interest and skills in these fields. Today is November 8th, National STEM/STEAM Day (get it? in Nov 8... innovate... clever), and we wanted to take a moment to recognize those working hard to advance these learning objectives and share a few ways you can get involved!
Even though this is recognized as a US National Day, we can extend our recognition and encouragement to the whole global community of engineers, scientists, and technology enthusiasts.
STEM education at an early age can inspire youth to pursue tech-related careers. Image used courtesy of Canva
As a millennial, I appreciate that growing up through high school and college allowed many opportunities to engage in robotics clubs, computer science camps, and even outdoor activities like model rocket launches. One of the biggest impacts of the driving force behind these STEM activities is the inclusion of specific learning and educational outcomes. Sure these acrivities were fun, but there was also a specific interest in learning—not just fun for the sake of having fun.
Why is STEM/STEAM so Important?
It’s no secret that today is a very critical time to encourage development of skills in technological education. The number of job openings and the pace of automation advancement make this time period the perfect time to pursue a career in technology.
Learning engineering (generally meaning all vocational-related tech) is not easy. It most often requires a two-year, four-year, or more tech degree. Some jobs can be gained right out of high school, but how would someone get to that point? They need to have an understanding and an interest in those job fields years before graduation. Starting at an early age, learning the job, the opportunities, and most importantly, highlighting the satisfying rewards that can come from a tech job.
Sure, not every job will be exciting every moment of every day, and maybe the ‘real world’ shouldn’t be presented in such a way, but if there’s a job where you get to make cool stuff, work on fun machines, or be a part of a process to build something great, I’d be the first to raise my hand.
The intersection of art and STEM acts as a means to effectively communicate hard science and technology via visuals. Image used courtesy of Canva
Why Include Art in the STEM Fields?
As an engineer, I had often wondered at the inclusion of other, seemingly unrelated fields into the STEM acronym. One of the most popular recently is the inclusion of art. Now art is certainly not an insignificant field of study, but I did wonder why it was included in STEM education.
The more I have become involved with various aspects of education, both teaching and learning, I see that people learn and engage through the use of primarily hands-on and visual senses. Hands-on learners are excited by activities and projects, and STEM directors have long since had a firm grasp on providing such engaging opportunities. But what about visual learning? A few examples include textbooks, websites, videos, tutorials, whitepapers, datasheets, forums, etc. These sources translate text and pictures into learning.
Quite obviously, if you presented a learner with a choice of material, one simply a page of text with no images, the other designed with a visual appeal and accurate technical representation designed by someone who could mix the engineering with an exciting background, which would you prefer? Of course, the more engaging one.
This is why art is important to understand alongside engineering. If you know things but you cannot translate them into a medium that spurs interest, the impact won’t be very significant.
There are many ways to help out with STEAM education for youth and adults. Image used courtesy of Canva
How Can I Help with STEAM Education?
Don’t overthink it. Involvement with STEM does not rely on a nearby school with a solid tech program. You don’t need to find a local organization that teaches STEM through interests like aviation, such as Civil Air Patrol or the Experimental Aircraft Association. I highlight both of these as groups that I was involved with for many years and were a significant part of my interest in STEM.
If you can find organizations like these, that is great, and volunteering is easy. There is no shortage of activities to support students.
Even if you are limited on time and local resources, all it takes is a willingness to talk. If you can find someone with an interest in learning any of these STEM related fields, talk to them. Explain the rewards, the challenges, and the projects that get you the most engaged with your own work. Do you need to go find someone who is a student? Not necessarily. There are plenty of adults looking to explore new careers—maybe you are one of those people yourself!
If you have an interest in control systems, robotics, engineering, math, and creativity in those fields, go share it. There are millions of open jobs right now, and millions of people who can fill them. How can you connect the dots?
Just go talk to someone.