An emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education and play has been long-established as an essential tool for raising a productive member of modern society. The logic is simple and it makes sense. Inspire a love and passion for science and technology, and a child could carry that throughout their life and career. The next Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, or Steve Jobs is out there. They just need the proper environment in which to thrive.

Lately, though, leaders in education and in the STEM fields themselves have wondered if there might be something missing from this line of thought.

Creativity.

A is for Arts

This past December, Old Navy came out with a new t-shirt design. The shirt is plain white with black text, stating simply “Young Aspiring Artist. As a no doubt well-intentioned nod to the need for more young scientists and engineers in the world, Old Navy crossed out “Artist” and printed “Astronaut” (or, in a variation, “President”) underneath.

The social media response was immediate, deafening, and negative.

https://twitter.com/SierraRein/status/681889425681461248

https://twitter.com/mrsbeeswax/status/681268437369384961

https://twitter.com/APlaxen/status/681925655819350016

Artists were outraged of course. That’s to be expected. More telling though is the number of scientists and engineers who came out of the woodwork to decry the shirt design for its message. NASA itself maintains a webpage showcasing their astronauts who actively engage in the creation of art.

Creativity is a crucial part of the process for any STEM professional. No problem worth solving was ever solved without a measure of thinking outside the box. The kind of radical, innovative, disruptive thinking that led to inventions like the smartphone, the automobile and the rocket engine require it.

As Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.”

The Rise of STEAM

Just like any other part of our brains, creativity needs to be exercised and nurtured. To that end, many educators today are actively encouraging exploration of the arts as part of a STEM curriculum.

This new mode of education is called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics), and it can help open up entire new pathways in your child’s brain. Children are naturally creative. Encouraging self-expression in play, especially as a component of learning and building, can only lead to good things.

Microduino’s mCookie product line is a perfect example. Their compatibility and tight integration with LEGO, that stalwart bastion of creative building, can bring STEAM into the home in a very real way. Allowing your child to exercise their creative impulses by building an enormous spaceship or castle out of LEGO is something you probably already do.

Helping them bring that creation to life with sounds and lights and motion, using a machine they designed, wired, and coded themselves, takes it to a whole new level. The feeling of having built something that actually works and actually does something is very potent. It’s addictive. It can stick with a kid their whole life, inspiring them to keep on designing and building and creating forever.

And that’s a beautiful thing.