Technology affects virtually every aspect of modern life, so it seems appropriate to designate a day for recognizing its impact and generating excitement about future advances. On November 8, people throughout the United States will be celebrating National STEAM Day.
(Used to hearing STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — rather than STEAM? A popular movement, led by former Rhode Island School of Design president John Maeda, encourages adding “A” for Art to the acronym in recognition of its importance to innovation.)
A main goal of the occasion is getting youth to explore STEAM subjects and consider jobs in related fields. Employment in science and engineering occupations grew from roughly 1.1 million in 1960 to 6.7 million in 2015, according to Census Bureau data, with demand expected to continue well into upcoming decades. Yet studies continue to show U.S. students significantly underperforming in math compared to other countries, leading to concerns about maintaining the nation’s global competitiveness.
It follows, then, that many National STEAM Day activities will take place at schools, libraries, and other youth-focused institutions. However, plenty of ways exist for any office to mark the occasion, too. Here are a few ideas:
Sponsor a local science/tech fair
To spur curiosity and innovation among area youth, sponsor a local science/tech fair. Such an event also increases awareness of your company and brands it as a forward thinker. Contact science department leaders at local schools to promote the event to potential student participants, or present the idea to a library director or park district youth services coordinator for help with organizing.
Host a STEAM collection drive
Help a school in need secure STEAM-related supplies such as calculators, test tubes, protractors and the like by hosting a collection drive at your workplace. Some people may prefer to donate money, which can then be used to buy more expensive items such as microscopes or get better deals by purchasing in bulk.
Invite a youth group to your office
If applicable, invite a youth group to your office to see STEAM careers in action first-hand. Allow plenty of time to thoughtfully answer their questions.
Visit a local school
Take a staff field trip to a school celebrating National STEAM Day. Watching a first-grader code, admiring junior high robotics projects, or learning how 3D printers are being used in education can be inspiring!
Visit a production facility
If your company makes items, consider a team trip to the production facility or lab. Workers gain a new understanding and appreciation of what they sell and market by witnessing how products get developed. If a plant visit isn’t possible, come up with a related alternative. Take a tour of a university’s science labs, or see which museums offer a behind-the-scenes look at how technology contributes to their displays.
Turn November 8th into a brainstorming and innovation day in the office
Challenge staff members to come up with ways to improve procedures, solve problems, or invent something new. Encourage tinkering, experimenting, researching, logic, and bouncing ideas off each other. Get everyone together to present what they’ve come up with at a catered get-together at day’s end.
Commit to life-long learning
In the ever-changing modern workplace, willingness to embrace change and expand one’s knowledge base is crucial. As an individual or as a group, commit to life-long learning. Companies that set aside money for employees to attend seminars or seek advanced degrees often see great returns on the investment. No budget? Try forming a lunchtime book club or watching pertinent TED talks together. And remember that the Internet is filled with a plethora of free or cheap online courses on STEAM topics. Try offerings from Coursera and MIT OpenCourseWare for starters.
Watch Project MC² on Netflix
Check out Project Mc², a Netflix original series featuring a group of smart girls who put their STEAM skills to use as undercover agents for a secret organization known as NOV8 (pronounced “innovate” — get the date connection?). Binge-watch a few episodes with colleagues to stimulate conversation on topics such as how to make science “cool” for kids and the challenges faced by women and minorities in fields often dominated by white men. You may find yourself so eager for more girl-power STEAM adventures that the show becomes your family’s new must-see TV show!