A career in engineering and the importance of STEM/STEAM subjects.

Author: Paul Smargiassi   Date Posted:24 November 2016 

I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Women in Technology WA www.witwa.org.au to spend the day with groups of year nine students at Albany Senior High School to talk to them about a possible career path in engineering and why STEM or STEAM subjects are important now and in the future as part of WiTWA's TechTrails intitiative.

When asked who know exactly what they wanted to do for a career only one or two out of group of twenty or so students put their hand up. When asked who liked science two or three would put their hand up and when asked about maths no one put their hand up. It was going to be a hard day.

Part of the discussion delt with what are the STEM and/or STEAM subjects and how they are related.

Science - Discovery and investigation using scientfically sound methods.

Technology - Take the scientific discoveries and turn them into useful and practical products and services.

Engineering - Uses mathematics to analyse and understand problems. Finds the best solution with the technology and resources that we have at our disposal.

Arts - The poor cousin that is sometime included as after thought but perhaps the most important subject as it is all about creativity. Why is it that most people love the iPhone and are happy to pay extra even though a Samsung can do just as much at a lower price? Why, because Jobs created an aesthetic and aura around the brand that make people feel cool when they own his product. He took the time to create a product that looked and felt really good as well as fuctioning well.

Mathematics - the language that unifies all of the above and a must have but the most difficult to teach and undersatnd as it is so intangible and "boring".

 

I really wanted to impress on them that the rate of change of technology is gathering pace to such an extent that many of the jobs today won’t be around when they graduate from school and even less if they chose to graduate from university. Pundits are saying that as many 40% of jobs today will disappear in the next 10 to 20 years.  I used the graphic above to show how the periods between disruptive technologies was getting shorter and shorter which is having enormous ramifications on their lives and the society we live in.

Where we had a generation to adapt we now only have a few years. The internet spawned the disruptive Uber but will the up and coming driverless care disrupt the disruptor?? Fast Brick Robotics a local robotics company is developing a robotic bricklaying machine that will be able to build a brick house in few hours rather than weeks. http://www.fbr.com.au/. What is going to happen to the bricklaying trade? Or once again is this technology disruptor being disrupted already by Cazza Construction.

I concluded by saying that we don’t really know what many of the jobs of the future will be but you can prepare themselves by building a solid foundation in thier education by studying some of all of the STEAM subjects.  

The government has recognised that if we to are to continue to prosper as a nation we must become more innovative and to sustain and leverage our innovation we must develop and encourage industries based in science and technology. We currently need more and will need many more students to take up the STEAM subjects. The current trend is seeing students moving away from STEM subjects and so there is an imperative to reverse the current trend. The digital technologies curriculum goes some way to address this need in K-12 education.


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