Are you aiming to build your career in any field other than fine arts or performing arts? If so, it is paramount that you make yourself aware of STEM education and everything it encompasses. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Just by simple observation, you could identify how many professions are built on the foundation laid by STEM. Ranging from prominent examples such as engineering, medicine, research, and accounting to less obvious ones such as baking and pyrotechnics, STEM education is at the core of every profession requiring the slightest involvement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The approach of STEM towards the learning process is revolutionary, and at the same time, it is based on the tried and successful concept of learning through engagement. STEM education couples academic ideas with lessons from real-world scenarios. STEM promotes project-based learning. In classrooms that have adopted STEM education, students are taught to work on technology-aided projects based on real-world scenarios or requirements. Here technology is used as an aid for students to comprehend the science behind concepts in a better way and to equip them to apply these concepts outside their classrooms efficiently and effectively.
What is at the core of STEM education?
At its core, STEM education applies the engagement theory of learning. Engagement theory works on the principle of intrinsically motivating students to be engaged in the learning process through meaningful activities that require them to utilize their cognitive abilities and decision-making skills. Education technologists who created this theory believe that students engaged in the learning process will understand the concepts better. Consequently, they will perform better when they are part of a workforce in the real world.
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Why is STEM education important?
There are only a handful of professions in which technology is not involved. Technology today is so advanced that it has significantly reduced the involvement of the human element, even from professions such as baking which formerly required a lot of creative input from human beings. Today baking a loaf of bread is as easy as pushing a few buttons. The technology in place is advanced enough to mix the right proportion of the right ingredients and subject them to procedures that will turn that mixture into a healthy loaf of bread. The only human involvement required here is to know what button to push to make a loaf of whole wheat bread and what button to push to make a loaf of multigrain bread, and to discern what kind of bread one requires. What the world needs now is a workforce that understands the science behind these technologies to control them to our benefit. Such a skilled workforce can arise only from an education system that imparts the required scientific knowledge by engaging them through project-based learning. STEM education does just that. In this system, concepts of subjects related to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics are taught by linking them with real-world examples. This is done by making students work on meaningful projects aided by technology. Technology and engineering are nothing but the application of science and mathematics. By working closely with technology, students will be better equipped to comprehend the science and mathematics behind them and consequently better equipped to apply these technologies in real-world scenarios. Through this approach, STEM education aims to create a workforce with the problem-solving, lateral thinking, and critical thinking skills required to work efficiently and effectively in this age driven by technology and information.
What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning is the basic principle of STEM education. For any subject that falls under the purview of STEM education, be it economics or marine biology, the concepts involved will have a relevant real-world application or requirement. Project-based learning will require students to learn their concepts in connection with these real-world requirements. This needs them to understand these requirements, to be precise, the scientific reason behind them so that they can decide what technology they can apply and how they can apply it. Project-based learning in classrooms creates a simulation for the students, so they can experiment with different technologies without the risks and financial requirements of applying them in the real world. After multiple instances of these trials, students get a clearer picture of the situation and approach a similar situation in the real world.
If you consider the example of a student of aerospace engineering, the real-world application of concepts they have to learn might involve sending spacecraft into space. Space research organizations spend millions of dollars just testing these spacecraft before being commissioned. How would a student be able to achieve the same results? The answer lies in identifying the ideal technology and the proper use. In a situation like this, an aerospace engineering student can use 3D design and printing technology to create spacecraft models and simulate the conditions of space travel on a smaller scale using small-scale wind tunnels. At the end of the day, the aerospace engineering student can understand the concepts involved in sending a spacecraft into space using simple 3D design and simulation software at a fraction of the actual costs without any of the risks involved in real-world applications. Having gained knowledge about all the involved concepts, this student is now well equipped to handle a similar situation as a real-world workforce.
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What are the subjects under STEM education?
The scope of technology today is vast. Consequently, STEM covers many subjects, whether utilized at the school level or the university level. Common subjects covered are:
- Design and Technology
- Civil Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Information and Communications Technology
- Computer Science
Read on for more details about these subjects.
- Physics: Physics is one of the four natural sciences and is an integral part of STEM. The laws of physics govern every act. From motion from one point to another to the theory of relativity, physics has applications in every real-real scenario. It is seen as a base of reality and life itself.
- Chemistry: Another natural science, Chemistry works behind phenomena explained by physics in terms of energy possessed by atoms, properties of elements, and reactions that sustain life on the planet. Along with physics, chemistry is an integral building block of engineering, technology, and life sciences.
- Biology: Biology is also one of the natural sciences. It is seen as a combination of physics and chemistry. Biology explains natural phenomena related to life through physical and chemical actions and reactions. Examples are the circulation of blood through the circulatory system and the function of biomolecules in carrying out functions that support life, respectively. Biology is considered one of the bases of medical sciences and life sciences.
- Mathematics: All science would be pointless without a means to quantify things. Mathematics is the tool that helped theories and hypotheses in physics and chemistry to be converted into sciences. Mathematics allowed scientists to quantify and explain their theories. Mathematics continues to be an essential tool used to quantify theories and solve complex problems associated with them.
- Geology: Geology is a natural science, and it forms the base of geography, in that it is connected to every material; solid, liquid, and gaseous present on and under the surface of the earth. Geology explains all phenomena associated with these matter and how it affects, transforms, or terraform using the Earth. Hence it is an integral part of STEM.
- Design and Technology: Design and technology collectively are simultaneously applications of the sciences and explain the sciences. New design and technology are created from the knowledge of the sciences. These technologies give rise to other designs and technologies that can be used as learning tools that explain the science behind designs and technologies.
- Civil Engineering: Civil engineering deals with the construction of infrastructure for accommodation, industrial operations, power generation, and so on. It applies concepts of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and geology.
- Mechanical Engineering: Another application of concepts of physics, chemistry, mathematics, and geology, this branch of engineering deals with machines, their operations, and their applications.
- Electrical Engineering: This branch of engineering applies to physics, chemistry, and mathematics. Electrical engineering deals with the generation, transfer, and utilization of electrical energy.
- Information and Communication Technology: Information and the dispersion of information through communication systems is the driving force of today’s world. New information is generated every minute, employing humanity’s ever-growing knowledge of the sciences and mathematics. This information is then used to create new technology. For dispersion of this information, communication systems are essential.
- Computer Science: Computers have made life easier by enhancing the thinking and innovation capacity of human beings by carrying out complex calculations and running simulations that we cannot achieve. The knowledge of computers and artificial intelligence is a skill of paramount importance for a technical workforce today.
- Geography: Geography is a study of the features on, above, and underneath the earth’s surface, then it correlates these features with the nature of living beings, including human societies spread over the earth.
- Economics, statistics, and finance: These are applications of mathematics and various social sciences. They deal with numbers related to money and how it governs human behavior and, therefore, the growth of society and technology.
With STEM education, students could even use simulation software to subject their 3D design to conditions in virtual simulations. SelfCAD is one such software that is exceptionally student-friendly and economical. With intuitive and user-friendly design tools and interactive tutorials, students of any skill level can use SelfCAD to create 3D designs from scratch and even prepare them for 3D printing. Although 3D printers are becoming cheaper and more accessible today, students who do not have access to one can simply export designs from SelfCAD to any CAM software and convert them to a format suitable for virtual simulations. Simulation software can then be used to virtually subject these designs to conditions they might have to undergo in real-world applications to understand their effects on the designs. The basic features of SelfCAD, along with interactive tutorials, are free of cost. Some of the more advanced features are available through a subscription model.
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