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STEM education

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and is typically used for addressing education policy and curriculum choices in schools. Interdisciplinary fields such as astrophysics, biochemistry, computer science, robotics, nanotechnology, neurobiology, and many others rely on a strong STEM background. This is why STEM education is an important focus within the education policy of numerous countries to improve their competitiveness in science and technology development.

Goals of STEM education

STEM education aims at creating a lasting interest and encouraging students to pursue a career in this field. Already at an early level, student engagement and participation is supported. Interactive learning concepts combine different STEM areas in project-based, interdisciplinary approaches to facilitate creative thinking and collaborative learning.

Challenges in STEM education

STEM disciplines are often perceived by the public as being “too difficult” with many students struggling in the related subjects. Therefore, there are numerous approaches to promote a positive image of STEM. Currently, women and minorities are under-represented in STEM-related fields, which is another challenge that has to be overcome in STEM education. A functioning STEM education concept should address students from different backgrounds, avoid discrimination, and encourage them to break with gender stereotypes. 

Importance of STEM education

As society is now increasingly technology-driven, occupations in STEM-related areas are continuously on the rise and amongst the best-paid and secure jobs. Moreover, fields like accounting, economics, architecture, and urban planning rely on a strong background in mathematics. Chemistry and biology are key for medical research, and engineering competence is needed in many professions that play a major role in modern economies. All in all, a solid STEM education for today’s students is the key to ensuring future sustainable economic growth and competitive advantages, which is why dedicated STEM education programs have been founded across the globe. For example, leading academic institutions such as Harvard, the MIT, Cambridge University, or the Imperial College London provide lectures, workshops, and summer schools for high school students. Other STEM activities are very often connected via regional, national, or global networks such as “STEMnet”, “Teach for All”, or “Empower Women”.

Instruments for chemical education

One example of such an instrument is the award-winning benchtop synthesis reactor Monowave 50, giving young students access to modern laboratory instrumentation. Convective heating technology makes the reactor compact, which saves lab space while the benefits of accelerated pressurized chemical reactions are maintained in a safe environment. The instrument comes with a dedicated Monowave 50 Teaching Guide, a collection of experiments ready to be implemented in any basic chemistry curriculum.

Anton Paar, as the producer and supplier of this cutting-edge benchtop synthesis reactor, fosters STEM activities also at the entry level into the world of sciences. The company ran a prize draw based on the question “Which experiment would you teach with the help of Monowave 50”? to highlight the importance of up-to-date STEM teaching activities. Prof. Diana Berenice Hernández Uresti from the Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon in Mexico (UANL) is the contestant who won a Monowave 50 Education package. UANL is the third largest university in Mexico and offers the largest number of academic programs in Northeastern Mexico. About 153,000 students and 6,394 professors work at UANL.

Prof. Hernández with her new Monowave 50

Prof. Hernández with her new Monowave 50

Monowave 50 Education Package

Monowave 50 Education Package

The won instrument will be used in UANL/CONACYT’s annual Women in Science Event, which is intended to encourage young girls to step into a career in science and technology.

Conclusion

It is important to make sure that future generations will have a strong background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM disciplines). To encourage students to enter this field, a new approach is needed. Providing state-of-the-art technology, the highest safety standards, and an intuitive, pleasant user experience, laboratory instruments can make a valuable contribution to STEM education.