Why I’m Excited that the U.S. Wants to Inspire More STEM Careers.


You’re probably wondering why a graphic designer is excited and blogging about a push for STEM careers. Why Rachel, you may ask, you’re an artist, why would you be excited about inspiring STEM careers? And for that matter, you may be wondering what ARE STEM careers, even?

STEM careers are careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. Professions such as bio-engineers, scientists, computer science professionals, astronauts, analysts, robotics engineers , and pretty much all flavors of engineers are all traditional STEM career fields (among many more areas).

So why am I, a graphic designer, so excited about the U.S. trying to inspire more young people into STEM fields? Creative and artistic folks are usually pretty far away from these types of fields right? Well, they used to be, but I don’t think that’s accurate anymore. I’ve always loved science. I think it’s super cool and it inspires me in a ton of different ways. If you don’t, I think you should. πŸ˜‰ I might be a bit biased in that opinion though. Hank Green is pretty spot on with why it’s just so awesome.

I pretty much just love science. Look at all the cool things it gives us and does for us?! Once you watch that music video, it will probably be stuck in your head all day. (Ok, that might not be true for everyone haha, but it is for me!) First and foremost that’s why I’m excited to see more encouragement for STEM careers; more highly trained and passionate people working in these areas means more neat things the U.S. can develop and the better off our lifestyle as well as our society will be. In all seriousness, Hank’s song makes some great points about that. Encouraging other people to become innovators in science, technology, engineering, and math allows me to worry about learning the new technology that comes out and how it can be utilized in design. Innovations in STEM areas make my life and my job easier.

Are you familiar with Hank Green? If you’ve spent much time on YouTube you probably are. He has a variety of Channels he creates content for including Vlogbrothers, SciShow, and has most recently become a spokesperson for Emerson’s awesome We ❀ Stem campaign. They even have a national TV commercial featuring Hank and part of his song I’ve seen play during several of my favorite TV shows. He puts out lots of great content on a variety of topics so if you’re into YouTube videos, I highly suggest checking these channels and the Emerson campaign out.

Recently I’ve been seeing this excitement and push to interest people in STEM careers all over the internet. I mentioned before that I consume a LOT of media in a pretty large variety of forms. I’ve been a fan of Hank and other science content for a while, but I’m seeing more and more of it leaking into more of mainstream content. I saw the Emerson commercial at least a handful of times on TV in the past week. Then earlier this week I was reading through the various blogs I follow here on wordpress, and one of my favorites is the TED blog. Wednesday they featured a post about Scientists getting the LEGO treatment. Hop on over there and check it out. As if Legos aren’t cool enough, science Legos to promote diversity and STEM careers pretty much made me drool. I won’t lie, I pretty much geeked out and sent my husband the link to let him know I MUST own these little guys at some point. =)

TED blog - Scientists get the LEGO treatment

TED blog – Scientists get the LEGO treatment

After I got done indulging my geekiness though, I was inspired to both learn more and write about how cool STEM careers are, and why there is this push to encourage people to head into these types of careers. So I took a few days and did some searching around the web for some information about all this, and I got even more excited about the movement. Here are some of the things I found that were most exciting to me.

I never thought that the skills I learned as a graphic designer could in any way extend into STEM areas, until I sat down to write this blog post. I was researching careers that fell within the category of STEM fields and found this Mashable article 10 Awesome STEM Jobs. 3 of the folks in these job have similar educational backgrounds to mine. 3D modeling/animation, HTML and web coding, and journalism/social media/project management backgrounds are all areas my design education has touched on and can be STEM careers certain applications. Let me expand on that a bit further.

The areas that are encompassed within STEM fields is growing, and fast. As technology continues to grow at an exponential rate, the reach of these fields will only expand. Right now, that can extend into areas of web design when you’re working with coding. Pretty much all designers coming out of 4-year degree programs now study at least basic web code. =D Alright, well web design isn’t traditionally considered a STEM field, usually that falls closer to those obtaining Computer Science Degrees, but the paths are beginning to overlap a bit. I know that’s a bit of a stretch, most graphic design degrees don’t touch on more than basic HTML, CSS, and maybe a little bit of JavaScript and such. Think though, about taking that basic coding knowledge, pairing it with continual education in more advanced web code, and there are a variety of ways we can apply this knowledge in the workforce that will bring us into some job descriptions that do fall within STEM fields.

This can also include those of us in the design field who are trained in 3D modeling and 3D animation. With the advancement of things like 3D printing, VR (virtual reality), as well as video games and 3D animation the ability to model, design, and realistically move objects in a 3D environment can be very sought after skills. When these skills are applied in areas such as VR and product design (especially in the area of 3D printing) the jobs can definitely fall under the scope of STEM careers. I know not all designers get training in the 3D environment, but with my first degree in Visual Communications I was lucky enough to, even if it was only a few basic courses. Again just like web coding, it lays the foundation to be paired with continuing education and applied in so many ways within the workforce.

I just think that’s pretty cool. It’s probably unlikely that I will end up in any of these exciting STEM careers, but I have a new appreciation about how fast the fields are expanding. “Technology is pervasive in almost every aspect of daily life, and as the workplace changes, STEM knowledge and skills grow in importance for a variety of workers (not just for mathematicians and scientists).” Stem Career

That is also part of the problem for the U.S. as a nation though. “In 2009, U.S. scientists fielded nearly 29 percent of research papers in the most influential journals, compared with 40 percent in 1981. The STEM crisis is causing a reduction in research, which restricts growth,” according to The National Math and Science Initiative. They also report that in “2009, for the first time, over half of U.S. patents were awarded to non-U.S. companies because STEM shortcomings are forcing a hold on innovation.” That’s pretty alarming to me. I’ve always been taught that the U.S. is a leader in innovation, research, and development in these areas, and we’re losing our edge. That edge is one of the things that has allowed us to be a global superpower, and I have to wonder what effect losing that edge might have?

Once I sat down and thought about those facts though, I wasn’t surprised at all that our nation is steadily producing less competitive people in these fields. I thought about the people I’ve known in my lifetime, the people I went to elementary school and high school with. The people whose posts I see in my social media feeds everyday, and even the comments I see on various posts across the web from the U.S. as a whole. How many of them really show a solid understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math principles? Do I know anyone who has gone into and become successful in these areas? How often do I see comments from people in other countries joking about this lack of basic understanding that people in the U.S. seem to have? It seems like I see the jokes all the time, and the people I know who have successfully made careers in these fields are few and far between. Granted my area of the country is not that densely populated, the schools I went to were all considered very small in comparison to many areas of the country, so the range of people I went to school with and have known is not nearly as large as someone in a large metro area. Even still, this lack of interest and basic knowledge in these areas is pretty alarming, and I don’t think that’s limited to just my small area.

The Stem Career website claims that, “Not enough young people are being educating or inspired about interest in STEM. β€œThe education in American junior high schools, in particular, seems to be a black hole that is sapping the interest of young people, particularly young women, when it comes to the sciences”.” Even the TED blog about the Legos I posted above states that STEM areas are “… a place where students in the United States are lagging behind.” Is this true? How do our students stack up against those from other countries? The National Math and Science Initiative says that 26 other industrialized nations had high school students that performed better in math than those in the U.S. in 2012 and that 19 of those nations performed better than our students in science that year. For a nation that’s been known as a leader in STEM careers before, that’s pretty sad and alarming.

It seems to be all too common for young people to lose interest in these vital areas. It certainly was the case for me. In my specific case, through most of elementary school I really wanted to be scientist, most likely a marine biologist, but science of any kind really interested me. I remember other students telling me that “wasn’t a girl job” or that I “wouldn’t be good enough or smart enough” to do a job like that. No one wanted to be a “Nerd,” it wasn’t cool to like to learn these “hard” things. My own family was always super supportive of anything I wanted to do, but sometimes as a kid you just don’t want to be that different from everyone else. Don’t worry though, once I reached adulthood, I learned to fully embrace everything different. It’s something that makes me so successful as a creative person. =D

I must not have been the only girl told things like that though, because the Stem Career website also says that, “Stereotypes about women’s abilities and their role in the family often keep women from pursuing math and science careers.” Girls Who Code, (a program that helps young girls learn the art of coding and computer science) says that, “In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.3% of high school girls select computer science.” “Women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields” and that sadly, “in a room full of 25 engineers, only 3 will be women.” I only know one woman from school who went on to become any kind of scientist or engineer. Those kinds of statistics are really alarming to me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not terribly upset that I didn’t follow through with my childhood dream of working in a science related field. The adult me knows that I thrive and am most happy working as a creative, but I can’t help but wonder what might have been different had I not been discouraged and lost the confidence in my ability in those fields. I lost interest in all science and math related things until my late 20’s. I would hate for other young girls to lose that love for learning, the ambition for doing things that are considered “hard,” and that natural curiosity we have as young children though. As an adult I have a new appreciation for that unrestrained curiosity and it upsets me to think of children losing that, especially young girls. So many adults I know lost that curiosity long ago. There is so much to learn in this world, why should we ever lose the desire to learn, to understand, to appreciate, and to better our world through the mastery of these areas?

So for all of these reasons, I’m really excited to see our nation pushing to inspire children and young adults to take interest and hopefully pursue education in these fields. I think it’s important for our country’s success, and I think it’s important for each and every person to have a love for learning and understanding the world around them. I may be an artist and a creative, but I fully support and encourage this push towards STEM careers. I know the people and children of this nation are some of the most capable and intelligent in the world. It’s time we nurture that and show it.

If you read all of this slightly different post, I’m pretty impressed and you get a big virtual high-five! =) You can find all the links I used in the post below. I promise most of my blogs won’t be such a stretch from more traditional design and art related topics, but every once in a while, I’ll probably indulge and go full “geek” on you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this! Are you as excited to encourage younger generations to love STEM careers too? Do you completely disagree and think it’s a waste? Did you have a similar experience to mine as a child or was yours the opposite? Did this post completely bore you and it was just TLTR (too long to read)? Whatever your thoughts share them below in the comment section! Hopefully you enjoy my posts and you’ll like and subscribe so you never miss one.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read the Pink Glasses blog!

Rachel

Links
Hank Green I love Science (Clean Version)
Hank Green I Love Science Emerson I ❀ STEM Commercial
10 Amazing Jobs You Could Land With the Right STEM Education – Mashable Article
Stem Career Website Information and facts were adopted from Preparing Students for STEM Careers by Angela Traurig and Rich Feller
TED Blog – STEM inspired Legos
Girls Who Code
National Math and Science Initiative
Emerson We ❀ STEM Campaign

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