STEM Day Continues to Gain STEAM

There’s no denying that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational programs continue to gain popularity in the U.S. as we celebrate another STEM/STEAM Day on Nov. 8.

Parents and teachers realize that kids are significantly better off if they learn strong STEM skills. After all, there are a significant number of high-paying jobs in fields where those skills are needed.

Adding art skills can’t hurt either. Hence, the creation of the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) variation on STEM.

Studies conducted during the early 2000s discovered that U.S. students were not achieving success in the STEM disciplines at the same rate as students in other countries, according to National Today, an organization whose website provides information on holidays.

Dire consequences were predicted to be the result if the country could not compete in the global economy due to a poorly prepared workforce. Therefore, educators focused their attention on science, math, and technology research, on economic policy and on education to turn that around, National Today said.
A 2006 study, however, showed that a comparatively large proportion of students still underperformed in these subjects and that the country ranked near the bottom on assessments of scientific competency and knowledge, according to National Today.

A bipartisan U.S. Congressional STEM Education Caucus issued a statement, saying: “Our knowledge-based economy is driven by constant innovation. The foundation of innovation lies in a dynamic, motivated and well-educated workforce equipped with STEM skills.”

Findings of several studies on educational practices encouraged U.S. state governors to seek methods to lead their states toward the goal of graduating every student from high school with essential STEM knowledge and competencies to help them succeed in postsecondary education and work, National Today said.

Growth in U.S. STEM jobs tripled the rate of growth in non-STEM jobs during the first decade of the 21st century, according to National Today.

However, racial and gender gaps continued to be a problem and employers continued to struggle with the need for qualified STEM workers. 

In 2015, toy company MGA Entertainment established Nov. 8 as “National S.T.E.M./S.T.E.A.M. Day” in a move it said was designed to “encourage kids to explore and pursue their interests in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math skills in fun and engaging ways.”

Since then, several technology and other companies have celebrated STEM Day and/or started supporting STEM educational initiatives.

For example, Microsoft said it’s celebrating National STEM Day 2021 with an online educational event Nov. 8, focusing on STEM and featuring Kenneth Harris II, who served as a NASA lead engineer and currently serves as senior project engineer at The Aerospace Corp., and scientist Anthony Morgan. “Statistics continue to show that STEM/STEAM studies support better outcomes for students,” Microsoft said.

In a Nov. 5 blog post, Katie Gray, developer programs engineer at Dolby, said: “Members of the Dolby.io team had the opportunity to participate in a virtual field trip with IGNITE. IGNITE’s (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution) mission is to close the gender gap in STEM. While women are nearly half of the U.S. workforce, they only make up 27% of STEM workers.”

As part of a recent Adobe Creative Campus virtual event, Adobe said it held a roundtable with three academics working in STEM fields to discuss why creative expression was critical to every STEM field.

In a blog post, Tacy Trowbridge, lead for global education thought leadership and advocacy at Adobe, said: “These fields provide the skills that students will need to become the innovators and inventors who bring society into the future. While some have interpreted the focus on STEM education as an end of arts education, the reality couldn’t be further than the truth.” Although the three roundtable members work in different STEM fields, they all agreed that creativity is critical, she said, adding: “It fuels innovations and leaps of imagination that can push their research to the next level. It helps them communicate findings, whether with fellow researchers or members of the public. Creativity also increases engagement with students and improves student outcomes. By bringing creative skills into the classroom with Adobe Creative Cloud apps, they are building a stronger foundation for student success, no matter where students’ eventual careers take them.”

In an August blog post, Pip Marlow, CEO of Salesforce Australia and New Zealand, said: “The absence of a female lens on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), is having detrimental, long-term effects on society as a whole.” In Australia, women make up “less than a quarter of students studying STEM, and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in university, [and] the gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering, she said, adding: “As a leader, I choose to challenge other leaders to leverage data within their own businesses to understand and identify where their policies could systematically be discouraging women from beginning or advancing in STEM roles.

“As a mother, I choose to challenge the public education system to make STEM subjects visible and available to girls, by providing equal encouragement, opportunity, and support for young women to explore STEM subjects and understand what a STEM career might look like. And, once young women have been placed into roles after university, we must make sure the programs and support they need are available to nurture them throughout their careers.”

Sony Electronics, meanwhile, said in March, it was planning to launch a virtual summer camp program this past summer to support kids ages 8-12 by “kick-starting their future in STEAM.” The program was to focus on “foundational principles of design, coding and robotics,” Sony said. The company “recognizes the importance of STEAM education, and expects this program will encourage more youth to get involved in these fields,” it said. The program was to use  KOOV, Sony’s all-in-one coding, robotics and design kit that combines digital coding with physical building to teach the next generation of innovators, it added.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has implemented several STEM and STEAM initiatives. For example, it said in a May blog post: “Children become aware of traditional careers at a young age. But the careers in modern science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) that are likely to be among the most in-demand when the children enter the workforce aren’t traditionally introduced to younger students. Many cloud occupations are absent in the aspirational pathways commonly discussed in STEAM education.

“Aspiring tech students are not aware of the full breadth of cloud jobs that exist, and are often pushed a narrow view limited to coding, video game production, and software development. These are not the right fit for all students. Absent are pathways related to hands-on physical infrastructure careers. Exposing students to more comprehensive STEAM concepts and views of what it means to work in STEAM jobs in middle school can help expand their ideas for future career choices. Additionally, educators often cite the lack of fun and engaging content for their students when it comes to STEAM education.”

To address those gaps, AWS and Flight Works Alabama (an Airbus Americas 501c3) created the program We Build It Better, AWS said.