Engineering in STEAM education is of growing importance due to the sheer demand for engineers worldwide. All of the STEAM education fields (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) are included within the concept because of their perceived importance and the question of ‘what is STEAM education?’ can largely be answered by emphasizing their value in teaching transferable life skills, assisting with cognitive development, and teaching useful concepts. However, the field of engineering can be especially important because there is a real demand for more engineers within the workforce.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of engineering to STEAM education or visit the ViewSonic education solutions page for further insights into the modern classroom.
The philosophy behind STEAM education is to bring together five important subjects or areas of study – science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics – in order to highlight their importance, emphasize their value to employers, and promote more integrated teaching. Additionally, a key part of the concept itself involves teaching these subjects in a way that students can relate to and in a way that is relevant to real-life situations.
Out of these subject areas, engineering is especially reliant on each of the other fields. It does not have the same long history of being taught as a standalone subject that, say, science or mathematics have, but its reliance on other fields does help to make integrated teaching easier. In this article, we will go into more detail about what engineering is, the importance of engineering, and how it functions within STEAM.
What is Engineering?
Various definitions of engineering refer to it as the application of science, technology, mathematics – and some even describe it as an art – with a view to designing and constructing objects, machines, structures, and other items or things. Most commonly, it is defined as the application of science and mathematics principles to create things.
The field of engineering is also sometimes divided into a number of sub-categories:
- Civil Engineering – Engineering of buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure.
- Electrical Engineering – Engineering of electronic devices, electrical circuits, control systems, etc.
- Mechanical Engineering – Engineering of vehicles, robots, engines, etc.
- Chemical Engineering – Engineering of chemicals, oil refinery, etc.
Some definitions offer aerospace engineering as a separate fifth category, focusing on aircraft and spacecraft specifically, but these activities are still most commonly included within the field of mechanical engineering.
The Importance of Engineering
The importance of engineering can perhaps be best summarized by thinking about how much we rely on engineers’ work. Whether it is the buildings we live, work, and study in, the computers and smartphones we use every day, the roads we drive on, or the medicines we take, there has inevitably been some level of engineering involved.
One of the major reasons for its inclusion within STEAM education is because there is a high level of demand for individuals with engineering skills and qualifications within the workforce. Over recent years, in various parts of the world, including the United States, initiatives designed to encourage students to pursue this area of study and its integration with other subjects are seen as a potentially useful way of furthering this agenda.
Engineering STEAM Education
Any good answer to the question ‘what is STEAM education?’ will place a focus on integration between the different STEAM fields. Out of these fields, engineering integrates with the others in some fairly straightforward ways – to the extent that in her overview of STEAM, Georgette Yakman states that students who are studying subjects like design and technology are essentially studying engineering.
A great example of where engineering combines with both science and the arts is in relation to ergonomics. This is where physiological and psychological principles are applied to design and engineering to emphasize things like comfort, safety, and ease of use. Similarly, architecture is an area where the arts and engineering combine very clearly because buildings and bridges are intended to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Meanwhile, engineering, science, and mathematics can easily be taught together because engineering is hugely reliant on scientific and mathematical concepts. The key to teaching in a STEAM-friendly way is by integrating the different STEAM fields and making sure the lessons are as applicable as possible to real life.
The inclusion of engineering within the STEAM education initiative is intended to highlight the extremely valuable role that engineering plays within the global economy while also highlighting the skills and problem-solving abilities that can be learned through engineering lessons and projects.
While it is not as established as mathematics or science as a standalone academic subject, its reliance on scientific and mathematical concepts, as well as its links to technology and the arts, make it ideal for integrated learning.
This article has been part of a short series on STEAM education where we have so far covered an introduction to STEAM, the importance of science, and the importance of technology. You can also visit our education solution page for more articles, resources, and insights surrounding modern education.