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Turning STEM into STEAM

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Turning STEM into STEAM

We have all heard the popular rallying cry. Advances in science, technology, engineering, and math—STEM fields—will drive innovation and put America back on the road to economic prosperity. But a growing group of people and institutions recognize the equally crucial role of art and design in invention and advocate incorporating art into STEM, transforming it into “STEAM.”

Combining Left and Right Brain Thinking

The recognition of the collaborative power of art and science is not new. Think about iconic Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo Da Vinci known for his masterpiece paintings as well as his flying machine concepts. Or the early photographer Charles Nègre (1820–1880) who eloquently summed up the notion of STEAM, writing, “Where science ends, art begins.”The equally pithy headlines of recent articles in The Atlantic and Scientific American,“STEM Needs a New Letter” and “From STEM to STEAM: Science and Art Go Hand-in-Hand,” offer a new spin on the age-old belief.

David Eagleman, the New York Times best-selling author and neuroscientist who directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, points to the similarity between the artist and the scientist. At the annual PopTech Conference, attracting a global community of innovators from diverse fields, Eagleman proclaimed, “A good creative person, scientist or artist, generates lots of ideas and has the capacity to throw a lot of them out.”

The prestigious college Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is championing the STEAM movement today. Their effort is paying off. Government, corporations, and educational institutions are embracing the concept. Their STEM to STEAM website provides further context:

In this climate of economic uncertainty, America is once again turning to innovation as the way to ensure a prosperous future. Yet innovation remains tightly coupled with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – the STEM subjects. Art + Design are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

RISD outlines three major objectives for the contemporary STEAM movement:

  • Transform research policy to place Art & Deign at the center of STEM.
  • Encourage integration of Art & Design in K – 20 education.
  • Influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation.

Stay tuned for Part II of "Turning STEM into STEAM."

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