STEM education has been a topic of hot debate for a few years now and its existence is under unending scrutiny. At a first glance this “third-degree” may feel like an annoying, rude, and uneducated attack on what is arguably one of the most progressive ideas to be set into action in schools in over 100 years. However, this scrutiny is actually proof that STEM is making its intended impact on the future generation of innovative, thoughtful, and resourceful leaders. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics all require that individuals employ critical thinking skills in a variety of settings to accomplish tasks both big and small. You may thank those in the STEM fields for everything from shoes that protect your feet from whatever is on the ground to the mobile device that you have likely used at least once today for your own personal purposes. Beyond these useful, but not vital, components in your everyday life, STEM is actively being used to help solve some of the world’s greatest and most demanding problems.
Taming World Hunger
World hunger is an issue that is facing thousands of communities all over the world. Entire villages, towns, and cities are facing food shortages for various reasons including: dry seasons, climate change, changes in the environment, animal disturbances in farms and gardens, and simply lack of money. STEM is stepping up and solving these problems on a regular basis by teaching individuals how to grow gardens and providing communities in adverse situations with greenhouses and farming technology to help combat this very real problem.
Facilitating Worldwide Communications
If you are using a computer, tablet, smartphone, or other mobile device to view this page, then you are witnessing first-hand how the internet is connecting you with people, places, businesses, and products all over the world. The device that you are using to view this material is a prime example of how technology has been used to facilitate worldwide communication efforts around the world. This helps to inform individuals of disasters, politics, travel, and social situations across the world without physically having to travel. It is a much cheaper, faster, and more efficient way to spread important information than what was used just a few decades ago.
Safer World Travel
Have you ever booked a flight only to have it canceled or delayed by a winter storm? Not only are you annoyed, upset, or concerned about having to wait to get wherever you are going, you are actually facing the reality that you could be entering into a dangerous situation once you finally do board that plane. Why? Planes that fly in wintery, frozen precipitation accumulate ice on the wings. To combat this problem, flights are delayed, and the plane is sprayed down with an antifreeze-type substance to keep ice from forming on the wings. Unfortunately, this substance wears down and some planes are forced into emergency landings. Science is currently researching the possibility of planes releasing this anti-freezing liquid in mid-air and making travel a safer experience for all involved.
Life Saving Medicine
All areas of STEM education are currently working together to research the medical procedures and medications that are given to individuals in order to save their lives. Vaccines for conditions like Polio have nearly eradicated these deadly diseases. Heart, lung, and kidney transplants have literally saved lives thanks to the efforts made by individuals in STEM-related fields. Researchers have an entire list of diseases and conditions that they are working on tackling in the future as new and bright minds enter these STEM careers.
3D printing is one of the newest, most innovative, and relatively inexpensive methods of providing strong homes for people in areas of the world that are highly populated. These homes can be built in as little as one day and can be customized to meet all of the requirements that an individual could ever need or want. These homes are sturdy, readily available, and incredibly affordable. Communities in places like Japan are already utilizing these 3D printed homes and efforts around the world have taken place to raise the money necessary to build such homes for the truly homeless to use.
In places like New York City where skyscrapers are plentiful and glass walls are everywhere, birds and other flying animals are dying in the thousands. These animals do not see the glass and will literally fly into it, fall to the ground, and die either from the impact of flying into the glass or from the impact of hitting the ground from such a high altitude. Researchers are currently testing different types of glass with different patterns in an effort to design an aesthetically pleasing glass that birds can see and avoid. As of now, there STEM researchers have discovered that birds do see certain patterns in glass and the journey to providing these types of glass at an affordable price to the public is moving forward.
Providing Fresh Water
Dry, hot, and barren areas of the world are constantly faced with a lack of quality, clean, drinking water. It is often easier to access saltwater than freshwater in these areas, and the little freshwater that is available is usually too dirty to consume. To solve this issue, researchers are actively working on technology that can desalinate saltwater for the purpose of turning it into safe drinking water.
Creating “Green” Alternative, Renewable Energy Sources
You have probably heard that you have what is called a “carbon footprint”. This means that a portion of your daily life is made possible by the burning of limited carbon resources like coal. Individuals in the STEM field have committed their time to finding resources that can replace carbon-based fossil fuels without harsh negative ecological effects. Once a viable source has been discovered [such as water or wind sources], it takes an entire crew of people to develop the technology necessary to harness that energy and distribute it to communities all around the world. Not only are these resources viable "green" alternatives, but they are renewable and therefore feasibly sustainable methods of powering everyday life.
STEM is providing young generations with the incentive to tackle world problems like those listed above. While it is impossible to get everyone on the same page with agreeing opinions of its structure, it is worth noting that STEM-oriented individuals are making a difference in the world.
For those that question whether a STEM education is worth pursuing because of its exclusion of other important topics like arts, physical education, history, and language arts, try and point out to them that every STEM career can incorporate those subjects and their lessons. No topic in life is ever as cut and dry as it may seem on the surface. All subjects are important in making students well-rounded and active citizens in their communities, but STEM-oriented students simply choose to focus more of their attention to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics than in other areas.