The Art in STEAM

April 4, 2014 / Education, Technology

From the Deutsch Blog – When I first learned about STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), I thought that it was severely needed—but where was the art? According to the STEM Education Coalition, less than half of the high school students in both science and math were prepared for college courses and only 31% of graduate STEM degrees were being earned by women. It is especially important for young girls to be taught STEM as a foundational part of their education. There is also a lack of practical technical skills being taught in schools for both boys and girls. Coding is a necessary skill now, yet just 1.4% of high school Advanced Placement students took the AP computer science exam in 2012. Fortunately, some of our top institutions are now providing free courses online. One example is Harvard’s free computer science course that teaches coding in 12 weeks. There is a definite need to support these efforts.

At the national level, it is important for us all to embrace STEM as a way to improve education and build better opportunities. But without art how can we fully succeed and move again into a position as a leading and defining force around the globe? Shouldn’t we wrap STEM around an “A” or insert an “A” for the arts for stronger balance? I was excited to learn that others share this view and there is a STEAM movement in progress. There was a SXSW panel this year by the STEMtoSTEAM organization, which is backed by the Rhode Island School of Design.  At this week’s IPG Women’s Leadership Network event on “Closing the STEM Gender Gap—Math, Science, Technology and Stereotypes” I was able to participate and speak about the need for art as part of the equation. The STEAM approach and intention mirrors our efforts at Deutsch to establish the role of producer as that of “creative producer”, focusing on the need for creativity and creative approaches across our work.

With a mother who was a ballet dancer and a father who was an engineer, this blend of engineering and the arts is actually in my DNA. As a past student of art history and prior TV producer, the urge to explore the arts, and the ongoing democratization of production and technologies, led me to a career in digital production at creative agencies. I pursued these areas because I wanted to be a creator and producer of engaging experiences. Science, technology, engineering and math are the leading forces that yield emerging technologies. They fuel the digital revolution that we are living in today. There are numerous examples. Think about wearables. Fitness tracking helps us to lead healthier lives, but without art and design, we probably wouldn’t want to wear them. Another example is the rising popular interest in science. The successful Cosmos series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson and executive producer Seth MacFarlane, among others, is a great example of pairing science and creative. It’s even brought to us by both Fox and National Geographic. Without large commercial budgets, many people are pursuing these partnerships. Artists such as Karen Ingram are leading #biohacker meetups, exploring bacterial photography and participating in the recent launch of Synbiota’s #ScienceHack, an open source style approach and digital platform for biology research with designers, developers and scientists working together from the start.

Artists embrace science. Scientists are becoming artists. Both are creators and makers. 3D printing is now commonly discussed and in the news, yet it’s been in use for years in the medical industry and for product prototyping. It’s now being championed by the creative sector and is more easily accessible than ever. The NY Times has reported that 3D printing is going mainstream this year. It’s a powerful tech advancement that democratizes the making of almost anything from hearing aids, products, open source robotic hands, toys and building materials to food products. And it’s all in a state of progress. Our digital revolution is an evolution and creativity is moving hand in hand with technology—each leading the other.