STEM Revisited

Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics are four very broad fields of education and profession. Linked together through their collective use of logic, research and innovation, the importance of quality STEM educational environments has only grown as society becomes more and more dependent on technology.

So why are school administrators, politicians and bureaucrats always talking about STEM? The simple answer is that schools at all levels require dedicated funding to create quality STEM education, especially as schools all over the world put more and more emphasis into STEM. The advantages of STEM education are many. Science and technology have played major roles in the past several hundred years in revolutionizing methods of production, fighting disease, dealing with environmental issues,creating new and useful materials and gaining a deeper understanding of nature.

This article on STEM is a continuation from a previous issue of Rip magazine.

Another word that has come to have an ambiguous meaning. What is it? Computer processing? Moving mechanical parts? Catastrophic weapons and miraculous healing power? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, technology is “the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry.” In other words, findings from scientific studies are used to create new tools, medicines, software, etc.

Technology doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, even the most basic tools we use, like knives, can be considered technology, because they have been created from scientific knowledge (e.g., the knowledge that metal can cut through wood) for a practical purpose (e.g., cutting meat and eating without getting messy).

In our current age, technology rules almost all industries—from agriculture, medicine and construction to computer software, neuroscience, and of course space exploration. In a world where technology is ubiquitous, it is important to
remember that all technologies were created by people by logically applying scientific knowledge to create new tools and to build on existing ones.

Engineers are the professional innovators. They are the ones that apply the scientific knowledge to create new technologies. Ever wonder who created the fast computer processors and innovative new software platforms? Where did all these different clothing materials come from? Who designs and creates high-tech machines, robots and solar panels? Who creates the complicated ways that energy companies get gas, oil and minerals out of the ground? Who
designs the roads and bridges and the complex network of underground sewers, electrical lines and communications lines? And who is responsible for those miraculous machines that can keep people alive as they lie critically ill in hospitals? Engineers are the ones who design, manufacture and maintain all of these diverse technologies. There are many different kinds of engineers in all kinds of industries. Some vital engineering professions include civic and environmental engineers, biomedical engineers, software engineers, mechanical engineers, materials engineers, chemical engineers, biological engineers, and geological and mining engineers.

To become a successful engineer, you will need a lot of technical know-how, including very strong proficiency in physics, mathematics and science. That means you need to study very, very hard in every level of school, from elementary school all the way through college. But it pays off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $85,880 in May 2017 —that’s $41.29 per hour!

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