Jennifer Steinkamp merges Art with Technology at Virginia Tech

By Joshua Erdman, IT Pro

I never thought I would be writing an article on the Arts.  For the last 22 years my whole world has been all about tech. From studying Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science at Cal Poly to running an IT business for 11 years, I had made up my mind that the arts didn’t really matter to me much.

But all of that has changed.

Start with STEM

The STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) surge began around 2006 when the United States National Academies expressed concern over the lack of STEM-related degrees being awarded from American universities. Around the same time, President George W. Bush announced the American Competitiveness Initiative to address shortfalls in federal government support of STEM educational development.

Soon everyone was following this latest educational trend – from Boy scouts of America to the Department of Defense. As the STEM engine gained speed, it also became a target of criticism. Some industry leaders claimed that the projected shortfall of skilled Science and Engineering workers was a myth and recalled the tech bust in the 70’s after the space race came to a crawl. Others saw the new initiatives as a cash grab, going after a slice of the continually growing educational program pie.

But one of the strongest objections came from those that felt that the STEM curriculum was not well rounded enough to nurture the skillset required to create a competitive workforce. This group called to add the Arts to the STEAM curriculum – thus creating a more holistic STEAM program.

Full STEAM Ahead

Throughout this debate, I felt the STEM model was just fine and couldn’t image why the arts were needed to work in the fields of science and technology. I held onto this sentiment until I was recently asked to present to the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce on ‘STEM, STEAM and Robotics’ following the 2016 Softec Robotics Expo.

As I prepared my presentation, article after article outlining the logic behind adding the A to STEM presented an argument I could no longer deny. I was forced to realize just how much the arts improve the world of tech in ways I had totally taken for granted.

Suddenly I saw design thinking all around me. In the smooth lines and jaw-dropping power of the Tesla Model S to the larger-than-life computer effects in modern cinema to the skillful and captivating presentations featured in TED Talks (I love TED Talks!). I realized I couldn’t recall a single innovation not influenced by creative thinking and artistry, and looking through an educational lens, it became clear that including the arts in the STEM curriculum was a necessity.

Art in Everything

I may never compose a poem myself, but that is not to say that beautiful songs, stunning art, and grabby stories have not locked within me a deep respect for the arts. I may be surrounded by a world of tech, but I still cannot hold an iPhone without noticing the sleek interface.

Today, I say it with pride: My name is Josh Erdman and I love amazing tech, I love beautiful art and especially – I love artistic tech!

// Josh has been in IT since 1997 and never leaves behind an opportunity to learn something new. He is a true ‘Jack of all trades’, a skill he taps into with his consulting, as he is always on the lookout for new ways to merge technology with business processes.  In his spare time, Josh jumps into any opportunity to present technology and science to kids and loves public speaking.  To relax, he works on his home farm, building barns and fences for his wife who fills each corral with goats, chickens, and coming soon – a pig! Oh – and you should taste his home brew!