Looking Beyond STEM

Engineers must lead in innovation, but STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is only part of the solution. Desirable, useful & sustainable inventions occur where technology, business, human factors & complexity intersect.

02/01/2010


 

Control Engineering :

- Thought patterns: How to innovate like Edison ;

- Where have all the heroes gone? ;

- Closing the Skills Gap .

 

As the year and decade ends, I see more and more emphasis from K-12 education and private/public funding agencies on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities. STEM initiatives seem to be the focal point now for addressing the innovation crisis in the U.S. While I agree this emphasis is essential, I believe the focus is too narrow and exclusionary. Let me explain.

We are in competition with the entire world, and the innovation crisis we find ourselves in has been fueled by a crisis in education, not only K-12 education, but university education, as well. Most students focus on facts, tests and grades, and fail to understand concepts and processes. The inability of graduating students to integrate all they have learned in the solution of a real-world problem, at any level, is a failure. The main goal of education at all levels must be to create critical-thinking problem-solvers and teach them that society's problems are complex and multidisciplinary.

Jon Jensen, associate dean at Marquette University and K-12 outreach director, makes the point that we are a nation of assessors and somewhat obsessed with comparisons, particularly with other nations. Our youth seem to lag behind other countries, most notably the STEM areas. He says we actually do better as a country than most think and, while we do have a great educational system, we still have a long way to go.

If I am a student with no interest or particular talent in the STEM area, I feel irrelevant to solving the innovation crisis. If I am a teacher in a non-STEM area, I also feel irrelevant. Students as early as the fourth grade are segregated into a college-bound STEM track and the “other” track, the irrelevant one. Parents feel frustrated that their children are not valued for their individual abilities and passions when they do not conform to the perceived valued path as indicated by the proliferation of STEM charter schools and programs.

The STEM disciplines will never solve the innovation crisis alone . As we engineers know, they are only a part of the solution. Innovation, the process of inventing something new, desirable, useful and sustainable, happens at the intersection of technology (is it feasible?), business (is it viable and sustainable?), human factors (is it desirable?) and complexity (is it usable?). In addition, basic science, mathematics and engineering skills have become commodities worldwide and are available elsewhere at a fraction of the cost here. Yes, critical-thinking problem-solvers from all disciplines working together are the key to innovation. Innovation is local — you don't import it and you don't export it. You create it. It is a culture. It is a way of thinking, communicating and doing.

STEM students and teachers, together with students and teachers from the humanities, arts, social sciences and business, must all realize they are equal partners in solving the innovation crisis. They each play a vital role and together must be able to identify the needs of people and society, critically think and solve problems, generate human-centered ideas and rapidly prototype concepts, integrate human values and business into concepts, manage complexity, work in multidisciplinary teams, and effectively communicate results.

The message to our students must be that they are each vital to solving the innovation crisis, and this message must be delivered early and often and in the context of real-world problems. They need to set high expectations for themselves, as we set high expectations for each of them. They need to discover their passion and their talents and take ownership for developing those talents knowing that in doing so they will play a vital role in transforming the world we live in. Engineers can make a vital contribution by setting a professional example and giving a real-world context to what young students study. Are you up to the challenge? We all know amazing things happen when together we attempt the seemingly impossible!




Author Information
Kevin C. Craig, Ph.D., Robert C. Greenheck Chair in Engineering Design & Professor of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering, Marquette University.




The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me