STEAM Powered: Why Arts is Key to Engaging Students in Engineering & Technology

This was originally published by the National Film and Television School.

There’s a lot of focus on what’s called the “STEM” approach to education these days. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and is driven by the increasing demand for employees with related skills, coupled with a lack of engagement from students.

We’re facing our own shortage of engineers and technologists in the world of film and broadcast. A US study from 2011 showed that 73.9% of broadcast engineers were between 56 and 66+ years old, with only 25.5% between the ages of 18 to 45. This points to a looming talent gap in production technology and engineering roles as the older workers begin to retire. As the same time, the nature of production technology is changing drastically — moving to computer-based systems that require an entirely new set of skills.

Not only are we facing a lack of new talent, but existing technicians lack the experience and skills to deal with the new technologies being used.

If governments and educational institutions are focussing on STEM, and employers have positions going unfilled, why is there still so much difficultly in engaging students? Perhaps STEM is missing a letter, and STEAM is what’s needed. The “A” in STEAM stands for, “Arts.” The STEM subjects, as important as they are, tend to focus only on tools and not the uses they will be put to. The arts — design, writing, music, drawing, and more, are where science, technology, engineering and mathematics combine with creativity and innovation and are put to practical use. Championed by the Rhode Island School of Design, the objectives of the STEAM movement are to:

  • Transform research policy to place Art + Design at the centre of STEM
  • Encourage integration of Art + Design from starting school all the way through to postgraduate education
  • Influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation

The NFTS Production Technology MA shares many of the aims of the STEAM movement. The programme’s focus on the science of electronics; the maths of IT; the technologies of production; and broadcast engineering, is all done in the service of art and the creation of film and television. Working together on projects, our students receive a multidisciplinary education, fully experiencing the practical application of their studies, and gaining a deep understanding of all aspects of the production process. Through challenges to solve specific production needs, students develop the creativity and innovation skills needed to excel in their chosen discipline, and advance the state of the art.

For more information on the NFTS Production Technology MA, register for the open day on the 28th May or apply here!