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What does the term STEM mean?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; it suggests the interdisciplinary integration of these areas of science in a context tied to engineering and technology. 

The foundations of STEM are attributed to the South African mathematician Seymound Papet, who built Lego-Logo, a toy with built-in programming, in the 1980s. A decade later, the term was coined by the National Science Foundation (NSF), but in a different order: SMET. It wasn’t until 2001 that the acronym was reorganized to STEM. 

At both academic and professional levels, the STEM approach focuses on the formation and integration of society in an increasingly advanced technological world. By way of summary:

  • S, science, works on skills in a field addressing the issues of climate change, medicine, and global warming.
  • T, technology, expresses the professional’s relationship with the technological field, ranging from programmatic languages to Artificial Intelligence
  • E, engineering, offers solutions in terms of infrastructure, designing smart cities and infrastructure.
  • M, mathematics, focused on fields of financial analysis, economics, accounting, investment, and even circular economics

What is STEM education?

STEM education is a new teaching trend that aims to understand science, mathematics, and technology in an integrated, crosscutting way through a theoretical approach to then apply it in practice in problem-solving.

The objective of this study methodology is to equip people with interdisciplinary skills that will allow them to learn from experience – “learning to learn,” preparing them for an increasingly advanced world at the technological level. It also supports developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Its principles differ from traditional teaching in its eminently practical approach, far from theoretical, memory-based, repetitive learning. This type of education makes it possible to train professionals in fields as wide-ranging as computer, industrial, or telecommunications engineers; physicists or mathematicians; and so on. They all start from the premise of innovation, logical and analytical thinking, and a practical vocation. 

What are the principles of the STEM methodology?

The STEM methodology is based on the four principles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and it offers lessons focused on:

  1. Teamwork, working on concepts such as collaborative economy for problem-solving and resource optimization.
  2. Real-world application in analyzing situations that impact day-to-day life and implementing decisive innovation.
  3. Learning through research and experimentation, motivating students to discover, reach conclusions, and design methods to carry out the object of the investigation, improving retention of the concepts learned.
  4. Promoting leadership in decision-making for training researchers and leaders with decisive skills in the face of the challenges of an increasingly advanced society. 
  5. Teaching in context, to be faithful to the meta-disciplinary concept of the STEM methodology. If not taught in context, it would just be teaching science or mathematics in isolation. 
  6. Encouraging creativity to increase the capacities for problem-solving from a critical perspective that’s individual, creative, different, and boosts communication skills.

What’s the relationship between STEM and gender?

While the STEM current aims to promote this study methodology from an early age, encouraging curiosity in girls and boys, the gender gap is still a reality in the workforce. The number of women in science and programming is lower than that of men: according to a United Nations report, only 30% of women pursue education in STEM.

According to the American Association of University Women, the main reasons for this disparity are primarily gender stereotypes. Technological and scientific jobs continue to be associated with the male gender, thus demotivating girls and young women in pursuing and developing their scientific capacities. On the other hand, work environments are male-dominated, hindering women’s professional development as well as wage equality.

Even if men’s legacy in the field of science and technology has been highlighted throughout history, the valuable contributions made by women in this field are also a known fact. On Ferrovial’s blog, you can learn about women who are sources of inspiration in the field of mathematics, science, engineering, and the STEM universe.

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