What is STEM and why is it important?
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. A common definition for STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work, and the global enterprise enabling the development of STEM Literacy and with the ability to compete in the new economy. (Tsupros, 2009).
There are many challenges facing the world today. Challenges like food production, reduction in greenhouse gasses, cleaning the world’s oceans and water systems, reducing single use plastics, melting polar ice caps, sustainable energy production, animal extinctions and habitat degridation, aging infrastructure, diseases, food and water contaminations and more need addressing.
Children are our future and their ideas could be used to help solve some of these problems. When they see a necessity or challenge or have to answer a question: they will call on STEM to solve these problems. How do you teach problem solving: by allowing children to solve problems? How do you teach creativity: by allowing children to make decisions? How do you teach self-confidence: by allowing students to engineer different devises and test how they work? There is no pass or fail, right or wrong: their goal is using all their ideas to make their creation and improving their ideas until they work as they wish.
Each of their designs is a scientific hypothesis that their creation is going to work to complete the challenge. They then test their hypothesis to see if it fulfills their goal. Then if whatever they make does not work the way they want; the students use the engineering design process to improve their creations.
We describe Engineers as people who use human knowledge, science, technology and mathematics to design, build, test, and improve things to MAKE OUR LIVES BETTER. We find telling the students the motivation behind Engineering endeavours’ is critical. So whichever type of engineering that the students are doing from Aerospace, Chemical, Civil, Manufacturing, Environmental, Electrical, Mechanical, Software, Robotics, and Marine engineering, there is often crossover between the different types of engineering.
Technology is important because each type of simple machine, chemical property, force acting on matter can be used, pneumatic system, battery, hydrogen fuel cell, motors, sensors, or software programs: students will remember the technology they used in creating their STEM projects and be able to call on the different technologies to solve the necessities that will make our lives better.
The applied use of Mathematics to test each creation and set the benchmark for how the project is functioning. Then an engineer improves their creation. Analysis of the improvements lead to the knowledge of how much the creations were enhanced. Mathematics is an integral part of the STEM methodology.
STEM education is important because it teaches children to be creative, confident, problem solvers who can make people in our communities, Country (Canada) and the world’s lives better.