Proficiency in STEM disciplines is increasingly viewed as being essential for today’s workforce. Schools worldwide have started to focus on STEM education and related curricula, starting at a young age. This is also reflected by increased governmental funding of STEM education. What is STEM and why has it become such a hot topic? And how can STEM education be enhanced with modern laboratory equipment? Find out in the following blog post:
What does STEM mean?
STEM is short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and is a term which is typically used for addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools. Interdisciplinary fields such as astrophysics, biochemistry, computer science, robotics, nanotechnology, neurobiology, and many others rely on a strong STEM background. This is why STEM education is an important focus within the education policy of many countries to improve their competitiveness in science and technology development.
What are the goals of STEM education?
First and foremost, STEM education should create a lasting interest and encourage students to pursue a career in this challenging field. Already at an early level, student engagement and participation is supported. Interactive learning concepts combine different STEM areas in project-based, interdisciplinary approaches to facilitate creative thinking and collaborative learning.
What are the current challenges in STEM education?
Very often, STEM disciplines are perceived by the public as being “too difficult”. Almost everyone has heard the sentence “math has always been too complicated for me”. Therefore, a positive image of STEM should be promoted to increase public knowledge and awareness. Currently, women and minorities are under-represented in STEM-related fields, which is another challenge that has to be overcome in STEM education. A good STEM education concept should address students from different backgrounds, avoid discrimination, and encourage them to break with gender stereotypes.
What are the benefits of being proficient in STEM?
Today’s technology-driven society needs competent and capable citizens. Occupations in STEM-related areas are therefore continuously on the rise and amongst the most well-paid and secure jobs. Also, the gender pay gap is reduced for employees in a STEM field. Furthermore, successful STEM education has been shown to improve effective learning in other areas and to encourage creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration.
Why is STEM education so important?
Accounting, economics, architecture, and urban planning rely on a strong background in mathematics. Chemistry and biology are key for medical research, and engineering competence is needed in many professions that play a major role in modern economies. All in all, a solid STEM education for today’s students is the key to ensuring future sustainable economic growth and competitive advantages, which is why dedicated STEM education programs have recently popped up across the globe. For example, leading academic institutions such as Harvard, the MIT, Cambridge University, or the Imperial College London provide lectures, workshops, and summer schools for high school students. Other STEM activities are very often connected via regional, national, or global networks such as “STEMnet”, “Teach for All”, or “Empower Women”.
A reactor for chemical education
One example of such an instrument is the award-winning benchtop synthesis reactor Monowave 50, giving young students access to modern laboratory instrumentation. Convective heating technology makes the reactor compact, which saves important lab space while all the benefits of accelerated pressurized chemical reactions are maintained in a safe environment. This modern laboratory instrument comes with a dedicated Monowave 50 Teaching Guide, a collection of experiments ready to be implemented in any basic chemistry curriculum.
Anton Paar, as the producer and supplier of this cutting-edge benchtop synthesis reactor, fosters STEM activities also at the entry level into the world of sciences. The company ran a prize draw based on the question “Which experiment would you teach with the help of Monowave 50”? to highlight the importance of up-to-date STEM teaching activities. Prof. Diana Berenice Hernández Uresti from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Mexico (UANL) is the lucky contestant who won a Monowave 50 Education package. UANL is the third largest university in Mexico and offers the largest number of academic programs in Northeastern Mexico. About 153,000 students and 6,394 professors work at UANL.
Prof. Hernandez says: “I am very happy to have won the prize. I believe that Monowave 50 and the Teaching Guide will be a valuable asset for my daily work with the students.” Prof Hernandez has a background in Materials Science and Engineering and holds a PhD in Materials Engineering. Her research focuses on semiconductor synthesis for photocatalytic applications such as the degradation of organic pollutants in water and the production of hydrogen by water splitting. In particular, the instrument will be used in UANL/CONACYT’s annual Women in Science Event, which is intended to encourage young girls to step into a career in science and technology. With this the idea of STEM and its importance for the education and future development of societies is further supported.
It is important to make sure that future generations will have a strong background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM disciplines). To encourage students to enter this rewarding but challenging field, a new approach is needed. Providing state-of-the-art technology, the highest safety standards, and an intuitive, pleasant user experience, laboratory instruments can make a valuable contribution to STEM education.
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