STEM subjects vital for future of technologically dependent lives
Huw James discusses the importance of STEM subjects to students „ A fall in uptake of STEM subjects could threaten the development of society„ Bosch Technology Horizon Awards vital in inspiring students„ Career opportunities in engineering must be promoted Huw James, science communication consultant, adventurer and host of the 2012 Technology Horizons Awards, comments on the level of student interest in STEM subjects. “We owe an awful lot to the people that practice science, technology, engineering and maths. From the pens and pencils we write with, to the water filtration systems that give us clean water, to the buildings we live in. With a Britain that seems to be favouring services such as retail over manufacturing, a fall in uptake of these ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects may lead to a systemic slow down in the development of society. Whatever importance we place on this progression, we need skills in these subject areas to allow our technologically dependent lives to continue. “For a while there was a significant reduction in the number of students choosing to study science or engineering courses. In many places around the world that trend is not only continuing, it’s getting worse. This is illustrated by the fact that a recent survey by Bosch showed that 28% of 17-19 year olds associated engineering with a ‘dirty’ or ‘greasy’ job whilst 10% thought it was ‘dull’ and only 41% thought it ‘makes a difference’. “It seems that students are still taught in the ‘traditional’ way that we all recognise from our time at school. This works for one or two generations but the rate that technology is developing, is it any wonder that the pupils get bored? All too often we ask children to sit down and focus, but how can we expect pupils to not get distracted when there is such a wide abundance of information and stimuli out there for them? It seems that the academic fraternity still thinks that if it doesn’t come from a book or out of the mouth of a professor, it’s not learning which my experiences have certainly proved not to be the case. “Students still learn certain areas of the STEM subjects at school, but can often get bored as they can’t see the link or relevance to their everyday lives. It seems that interactive experiences can make a real impact although they usually come in one full dose for students, usually through a visit to a science centre or show. So perhaps taking the concentrate of interactive science and dripping it into our education system as a tool to inspire could create positive experiences that have a lasting impact. This is where initiatives such as the Bosch Technology Horizon Awards play an important role in supplementing the national curriculum. “The Bosch Technology Horizons Awards is a unique opportunity for students to see how innovation relates to the world around them and how they can be a part of its future. This year’s competition asks for essay entries in answer to questions concerning environmental technology and how engineering has helped develop the infrastructure of the 2012 Olympics. The Awards demonstrate the true value of scientists and engineers and show students that these subjects can not only lead to a fantastic career but are also incredibly important to society. “Everything that we have in the man-made world today, from the laptops we use at work to the buildings we live in, originated in the mind of an inspired scientist or engineer. If we want our society to develop in the way it has over the last hundred years, we need to capture the minds of the younger generation. I believe that interactivity has its place in encouraging students to seriously consider science and engineering. However, maybe we shouldn’t look at it as the only way of teaching the STEM subjects but as an additional tool, with competitions such as the Bosch Technology Horizon Awards providing a unique route to that all important inspiration.” More about the Bosch Technology Horizon Awards:The Bosch Technology Horizons Awards is an essay competition that is split into two age groups with cash prizes for the winners. First prize in the 14-18 age group is £700 whilst the winner of the 18-24 age group will receive £1,000. Entries can be submitted online at http://www.bosch.co.uk/technologyhorizons/ until the closing date of 20th April 2012.