Understanding STEAM

What is STEAM?

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has been a transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning dating back as far as 1749, Benjamin Franklin’s time, according to some. From there it has taken on many shapes and forms in the education world. But, it wasn’t a curricular movement until Judith A. Ramaley the assistant director for education and human resources at the National Science Foundation from 2001 to 2004 coined the term, STEM. This interdisciplinary approach has been around long before but recently started taking off in the mid-2000’s. Today we have additional variations, to STEM, one current branch is STEAM. Many scholars, in this case, Peter Hennigar and Jacob Scott, feel that the “A,” really needs to be lumped into the equation. We want to be aesthetically pleased, we want to communicate with a clear intention, and we want objects to have a purposeful function. So by applying principles of design to science class, makes complete sense for applying aesthetics, design, and communication. Peter and Jacob aren’t the first to use arts into science, and they certainly won’t be the last.
The focus of the course is to expose students to real world problems that need to be addressed to find a solution while also being conscientious of the importance of design.

How is this transdisciplinary?

Both Peter and Jacob have their students go through the Dartmouth Project for Teaching Engineering Problem Solving model. This model gives students a platform that they can work from and move forward with a given challenge. One particular design problem was having students create a motion controller that would hold a digital capturing device.
So, you may ask…what makes this particular project, a STEAM project. Below are how all the disciplines are cover STEAM.
Model Credited to Peter Hennigar


The entire developing process, students, will be going through 2 processes, design thinking, and scientific inquiry while gathering evidence and documenting their learning progress.

T- Technology

Students were given the EV3 Lego Mindstorms to program the control of motion for their digital time lapse device. The students will also have a 3D printer available for rapid prototyping and printing fixtures. Students will also use their computers to research, document through their blog sites on the progression of their learning and thinking along the way. Before this challenge, Peter ran through basic programming skills needed to operate the EV3 Lego Mindstorm so students could access their prior knowledge while applying their understanding to the camera motion controller challenge.

E- Engineering

All students will be using the EV3 Lego Mindstorms to engineer a structure to hold a digital documentation device. Groups that choose to 3D print will have to engineer models using a CAD program, specifically Tinkercad because of the simplicity of the tool.

A- Art

Taking capturing video and time-lapse photography students are to compile their footage into an art piece that captures life in Shenzhen while exhibiting mood that engulfs the viewer attention.

M- Math

Students must have a time-lapse piece in their film. The film cut needs to be a minimum of 1 minute long. Students need to show how many frames per second they captured to demonstrate an understanding of time, frame rate, and speed. Applying, all the disciplines together to into a great video in the end.

How do you assess each student’s performance?

Students must demonstrate their learning by gathering evidence and displaying their knowledge through a digital portfolio. Each group(3-4 students) had one log book to document their thinking and to demonstrate booking of experience every time they met during the STEAM class period. The record book supported their process of learning, however, some students documented in different ways, which for all intensive purposes students were given agency to showcase their knowledge. Many of groups as mention before, blogged about their experience, this was a must, but others not only blogged about their learning but video documented each contact day of their project development.
Their final product was to produce a video using their time-lapse motion controller to capture the life of the Shenzhen community.
[embeddoc url=”https://share.sis.org.cn/innovation/files/2016/11/Motion-Controller-2a9vwz9.docx” download=”all” viewer=”microsoft”]

Examples of students work:

 [metaslider id=5223]

Shark Tank Process:

Each group came up with a company name to present to “venture capitalists,” Just like the famous show in the US.  Teams were given 15 Minutes to showcase product and answer questions from the “venture capitalist,” panel.
In the end, the shark tank panel handed out checks to each company to show their interest investing for a better product to be released for sale.
[embeddoc url=”https://share.sis.org.cn/innovation/files/2016/11/STEAM-Sharktank-19h1ktf.docx” download=”all” viewer=”microsoft”]
Why not just do traditional science?
Traditional science predominate only pushes the traditional boundaries of hard skills to develop. With STEAM not only do student build hard skills but they also work on their soft skills, especially when it comes to showcasing their learning.
Problem Solving in Engineering
Independent learners
Complex Thinkers
Global Citizens
Using Models and Simulations
Elements and Principles of Design
Applications of Principles Design

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