STEM subjects are the areas that most big players in economy, education and industry consider to be the plenipotentiary, from which all other priorities should follow. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and studies in these areas are comparably well funded, well supported, and ultimately, well paid, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get people interested in investing their own time in them.
As an Engineer that taps all 4 of the STEM roots, I may be biased, but I tend to agree with the STEM structure, and have always looked at the STEM studies as the most important. I too, often struggle to break down why I like what I do, when talking to my friends and have almost given up on talking about STEM subjects that can’t be tied in with sports or videogame culture.
It’s tough to ignore the fact that there’s a perceived lack of a conventional “human” aspect in the four pillars of STEM. There’s a stigma that these areas are cold, black-and-white, robotic and inhuman. For this reason, many will look on at the STEM studies and instantly think “that’s not for me” or “I don’t do math” or other damning thoughts to that effect. The children of STEM will always try to get across the reality that everything to do with Mathematics or Science is equally as creative, evocative and emotional as any movie, statue or painting that others would consider to be more “human” things to admire and appreciate. From Six-Flag rollercoasters and Las Vegas water fountains, to Large Hadron Colliders and lab-grown organisms, STEM ventures are the pinnacle of human endeavor, and something that everyone is involved with, whether they realize it or not.
“Art is in everything”, “Art Imitates Life” and all of those other cliche phrases have always been the cry of artists and creative types, who are determined to prove to the average man in the street that they are part of it, and to the same extent, STEM’s advocates are tortured by the knowledge that their work is used by everyone but always with a line between the creator and the user.
Joined at the hip, by the same communicative issues; a campaign has emerged, to add Art to the STEM core, creating STEAM.
The idea is that Art and Design are of equal importance to the STEM studies and that together, they can push their own boundaries and bring more people who traditionally “Aren’t into art” or “Don’t get Science” into the equation.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan, and, in a way, jealous of the Otaku culture in Japan with the likes of Otona no Kagaku, the “Science for Adults” series that encourages learning and creativity beyond the school walls.
I must admit, that I personally have been a “Don’t do Art” person, and built the same rift between myself and the creative, but the more I look at it; the fewer differences I see.
The drive to make Art and Design an essential study, paired with the rest of the STEM is championed by many big organisations and personalities and is making waves across Europe and America. The likes of StemToSteam.org and the i.am.angel Foundation, headed by superstar will.i.am have seen changes in classrooms, from Raspberry Pi and arduino workshops in schools, to the Arkyd project, which plans to grant open space telescope access to students, pushing creativity, model making and design, whilst also encouraging interests in the rest of the STEM community.
In short, art’s creativity proves itself to be a driving force in innovation, granting a whole new dimension to how people engage with the core studies.
Alone, STEM and Art have always struggled to engage, but together, we’re already seeing how great they are at amplifying each other, and breaking down the barriers between the public’s perceptions and their actual potential.
Check out RISD.edu to learn more.