Internet Offers an Alternative to Formal STEM Education

There are those who say America doesn't make anything anymore. When is the last time you saw "made in the U.S.A" printed on the tag of a t-shirt or on the back of a child's toy box?

Chris Anderson, editor in chief at Wired, said America is going through a manufacturing renaissance. Anderson released a book titled: "Makers: The New Revolution," where he argues that certain areas, such as 3D printing, online design tools and the funding of outsourcing tasks to distributed groups of people, will contribute to the future of America's economic upturn.

During an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Anderson stressed the importance of the role individuals and small businesses play in manufacturing. They also discussed the lack of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education provided to students in today's classrooms.

Anderson said individuals can get more involved in manufacturing by taking advantage of the accessibility that the internet offers.

"When you do things in such a public way, you quickly find people who can help and accelerate projects, turning them from little ones into big ones," Anderson said. "As the tools get easier, there's more people like you doing it, more people who are inspired to get involved. What ends up happening is the things we're making are more world-changing. The fact is, it used to be hard to make stuff. If you wanted to make something out of metal, you'd have to have access to molding and welding tools and things like that. That's not the case anymore."

Anderson noted that it isn't the reinvention of old products and tools that will make advancements in technology; it is more people getting involved to make unique things for our generation. Workshops that allow public information to be shared will lead to innovative ideas.

U.S. News & World Report told Anderson that students do not have adequate math and science skills to understand that it id the making or creation of a product or tool that will lead to advances in technology, rather than the re-making of prior inventions. Why is this not taught in schools?

"The great thing about the Internet is it offers an alternative to formal education," Anderson said. "There are people online teaching themselves and there's people teaching each other. But formal education has been going in the wrong direction for decades. We still have a couple shop classes, but as manufacturing jobs left the country, they became less relevant and were cut. Now, we have machine tools that are basically extensions of the computer. We don’t need shop classes, but we need design classes. Suddenly, classes like home economics have become much more relevant, only we’re teaching for a screen generation. Suddenly, there's the opportunity for classes like that to be reinvented in a 21st century design curriculum."

Read more of the interview on U.S. News & World Report.


Sarah Cechowski is the associate digital editor for Control Design and Industrial Networking. Email her at scechowski@putman.net or check out her Google+ profile.