Celebrating National STEM/STEAM Day

By: CTA Staff
8 November 2017

Today is National STEM/STEAM Day, a calendar observation devoted to promoting the importance of educational programs that focus on and integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — plus art in many circumstances. A recently completed CTA project, St. Ignatius Catholic School in Meridian, ID, deploys “STREAM” education, integrating the aforementioned subjects with religious curriculum.

CTA’s educational design teams believe every learning environment should be viewed through a unique lens, weighing priorities most important to specific students, faculty, and administrators, and the communities and environments in which they sit. However, we find when planning environments that will feature STEM programs (and their many variants), the encouragement of collaboration and the harnessing of the interaction of the multiple subjects brings great value to the students, but also the facilities.

Further, we have seen evidence that STEM is often solely associated with students preparing for — and currently enrolled in — four-year college programs. While it is highly appropriate in these circumstances, STEM is by no means limited to this educational trajectory.

Alan and Nathan Bronec, both team members hailing from CTA’s office in Missoula, MT, serve as mentors to Missoula High School’s Robotics Team #3216. It began in 2009 when Nathan, a team member at the time, suggested Alan — a CTA principal and veteran electrical engineer — consider a leadership position with the group. They have both remained affiliated with the team since, and fellow Robotics Team member-turned-CTA-employee Michael Kaufman has since rejoined them in an advisory capacity. John Luoma has also begun to serve as an advisor for the team this year.

Missoula High students, overseen by CTA’s Alan Bronec (center picture, right) ground handcrafted keychain holders in a recent design exercise.

“With the team, we try to take a different approach by focusing on applying the principles of STEM, and illustrating for the students that they have more opportunities than just going to college,” Alan said. “We really are about illuminating career paths for the students and giving them multiple options in what they can do with their futures. They’re learning highly valuable, hands-on skills that will aid them in either moving directly into the workforce, or into college or a trade school.”

Asked how this affects CTA, Nathan said, “Architecture and engineering designs are truly only as good as the contractors who implement them. Lately, I’ve heard contractors are finding it difficult to recruit competent workers that understand how to read plans and simply build things.

“Overall, there are less people selecting STEM trades as career fields. We believe the students on our team that don’t go onto college, moving into trade fields instead, can have a massive leg up on their careers as they often have already demonstrated mastery of necessary basics. Additionally, we hope to create enthusiasm to consider the full scope of career opportunities — the collegiate route to professional engineering credentials, as well as direct routes into the trades. We may not see this bear fruit immediately, but these efforts have a direct impact on our work.”

Alan chimed in: “Well I actually have already begun to see my impact as two students I mentored in high school have taken up careers in the built environment, and come to work for CTA.”

Every day is a great day to celebrate the benefits of STEM education, but today, especially so. Happy National STEM/STEAM Day!

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