How Elon Musk can help America become better at STEM

A look into how design can play into learning rocket science

There’s so many opinions about why Americans are notoriously bad at math and science. Quality of teachers. Too many standardized tests. Government can’t execute its programs well enough. We don’t have the right tools. Students aren’t enthusiastic enough. The list goes on.

I don’t really know why we’re not good at STEM fields, specifically our students in middle and high school. I just know that we’re not so hot in these fields, globally:

As a student who once dreaded math in middle school, here’s my perspective on the learning process. There’s three stages of comprehension that any student has when learning STEM:

  1. Memorization
  2. Learning
  3. Thinking

Memorization is the learning method that students start off with. This is what ultimately screws students, especially in topics such as Calculus. Sometimes memorization is unavoidable, like in Biology. But, in subjects like chemistry, try memorizing a stoichiometry technique that can work for every reaction out there. Forget memorizing one. If you find a universal solution, let me know. In Algebra, there are certain things you need to memorize, like different slope formulas. But you must understand what rise over run really means, or else, good luck in Calculus. That’s why memorization falls short. It can only take you so far.

Learning is the next thing that elevates a student’s comprehension technique. This is the ‘ah-hah!’ moment, the stage when you can explain the concept, in your own words. That’s what makes peer to peer learning so helpful. Until you learn it, you can’t explain it.

Thinking is a step that most students don’t reach in STEM fields, and I don’t blame them. It’s difficult to question a concept that’s so grueling to even understand in the first place. This is where students ask thought-provoking questions about certain processes, dealing with proofs and theorems, challenging these notions, and then publishing something about it. These are your John Nash’s, Alan Turings, and more.

So what does Elon & Design have anything to do with this?

Elon has something that very few entrepreneurs have had in the past: Influence.

People hear his name, they pay attention. Elon does what to work 100 hours a week? I’m taking notes. Elon blew up millions of dollars? It’s okay, give him a break. Self Driving car? Lol Google, good luck against Elon.

Whenever he creates, our generation listens.

Why doesn’t SpaceX use its new innovation to teach young students about rockets, space, science, and other subjects that make young people shudder, cry, and want to go back to watching KUWTK?

Currently, here’s some of the points that SpaceX makes about its rocket, Falcon 9:

Ibf? Burn time? Low Earth Orbit? KUWTK sounds great right about now…

Yes, I know its rocket science. But look at the opportunity Elon has here:

  • People, young people are interested once again in what is happening in Space because of the newfound Space Race
  • SpaceX is the leading this generation’s Space Race
  • His rockets are blowing NASA’s out of the water (pun intended)
  • NASA’s education program hasn’t been very effective, as we’re still so far behind in STEM. NASA has an education program? Yeah I didn’t know that either.

It’s not Elon’s job to educate the youth. But, but if you’re going to call yourself Iron Man, then it is your job to inspire them. Get the buzz going. Have people who avoid the physics textbook go and google ‘SpaceX.’ And make sure they don’t see the same thing that they were just trying to memorize earlier in their textbook.

What if there was a ‘learn more’ tab, where people who are just interested in SpaceX could learn about rocket ships, like the Falcon9? How about something as rudimentary as this:

Composite Fairing? Oh, okay, thats the part that delivers satellites. Awesome. Where does it deliver the satellites? In the Low Earth Orbit and Geosynchronous Earth Orbit? what the he..Oh okay, the LEO is basically the best place for the satellite to live. The same way we always want to use our phone in the room with the best wifi. Got it. GTO? Gotcha, that means we don’t have to worry about the satellite running away from us. Because we affix them to a certain area, that’s what so special about that part of Earth’s orbit. Kinda like putting a leash on a dog. Cool!

A well-designed infographic could easily accomplish what an ordinary textbook has been trying to do for decades.

The buzz, excitement, everything is in place to teach millions of young people. About Space. Rockets. Orbits. The Universe. Everything out there that we refuse to learn about in here.

Good design is always about how it works. Elon’s rockets work. Lets add some great design to get America’s interests to start working once again.

Mr. Musk, class is in session.


This piece was taken from my 100 day commitment to design everyday. Follow my progress on Twitter and Behance.