STEM and the real world

“STEM education is an interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are linked to real lessons while students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contexts that form links between school, community, work and the global enterprise that enables STEM literacy development and with it the ability to competes in the new economy “
Tsupros, 2009.

Participation of OECD countries in STEM studies, source: OEDC website

STEM has evolved exponentially in new human history. We have become experienced users of technology, but most of us do not really understand the scientific discoveries of the everyday objects we use.

If we look back, we will notice that STEM was present very early. Approximately 3,000 BC man invented the wheel. Using the laws of physics, this great invention made people’s daily lives easier, while today it is the basis of most of the machines we use every day. The hard work of human hands in production was replaced by machines during the first industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century, which led to an increase in industrial production. The most important STEM invention was the steam engine. In addition to many large factories, new cities were established, which resulted in the development of new modes of transport, such as steamboats and steam locomotives. Important energy sources came with the discovery of oil and electricity in the mid-19th century. The period of the second industrial revolution followed – a period of great progress in science and many discoveries without which we cannot imagine today’s life – light bulb, telephone, aircraft, radio, etc. During this period, the greatest discoveries were in the field of medicine – the discovery of penicillin, an antibiotic that saved millions of lives. The second half of the 20th century brings the period of the third industrial revolution, which is based on further digitalization of machines, which leads to an increase in mass production. The third revolution had a great impact on the media, with the advent of the Internet, but it also affected jobs in production. Most of the work previously done by factory employees was taken over by engineers, IT experts and designers. Therefore, new technologies require different skills.

In everyday life we ​​can see, touch and use hundreds or maybe thousands of products, applications and devices that have become thanks to STEM. Some of them are really easy to spot: for example, STEM helps us connect with people from all over the world via the Internet, telephone, etc. Thanks to new scientific methods, more powerful parts of agricultural machines are created, genetically produced hybrid plants produce more food, and new, stronger fertilizers are developed every day. Chemists are also improving and creating new packaging materials, such as plant “plastic”, which is more environmentally friendly. Moreover, engineers have managed to produce clean energy using renewable sources. Civil engineers design buildings, roads, bridges, airports, sewers and railways more efficiently, with greater durability in natural disasters such as earthquakes or floods, using STEM. Also, biologists, doctors and medical staff help improve our health and well-being. Now medicine can cure diseases that, not so long ago, were fatal. For example, polio has affected millions of people since prehistoric times and has led many to death, by the middle of the 20th century and the invention of polio vaccines.

Quoting Bernard Mara: “We are on the threshold of the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0.” Humanity is on the verge of gaining all the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a commodity, but this also raises some questions:

  • Does the availability of AI mean that people will be completely displaced in factories and if so, how to prepare for future skills?
  • Will handmade obsolete and whether the skills of laborers become unnecessary?
  • Can education support all future students?

Lecture and discussion with participants, students and teachers from Serbia and the region, was led by Milijana Petrović, computer science teacher and Scientix Ambassador from Serbia, as well as the National Ambassador of Science on Stage Serbia network and a member of the Institute for Modern Education.

The screenshot belongs to the Author – Attribute CC-BY