STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The push to strengthen the focus on STEM education courses for both boys and girls has become a public education emphasis that most of us agree is important to the economic and technological future of the United States. Through local and national campaigns the initiative has gathered momentum. But is a critical ingredient still missing from the equation? Something that might give STEM the extra oomph it needs to really break through on the mass appeal level? Maybe it needs some STEAM. The A in STEAM stands for ART (and Design). And last week when I was reading Mark Albert’s recent article about Valerie Pezzullo being awarded first place in the MTConnect Challenge, I was reminded how important a role the creative process can play in engineering. Pezzullo is a 24-year-old Clemson University graduate student in mechanical engineering. Her winning design monitors and identifies machine tool chatter while gathering machining process data which helps isolate and eliminate chatter in a given process and prevent chatter conditions from occurring in future processes. Pezzullo’s first place finish underscores the fact that although women make up less than 25% of the engineers in Canada and the United States, there is no legitimate reason for women to be under-represented in this important field.
But for me, the more important take-away from Mark’s article is that Pezzullo has a strong interest in the arts, including music and theatre. Is it possible that Pazzullo’s "creative side" gave her the edge she needed to secure the $100,000 1st Prize? Of course, the left-brained among us tend in the STEM direction, but it needn’t be a matter of one or the other. I’m convinced that the most successful engineers AND artists have a strong right and left brain working in harmony. $100,000 says that Pezzullo agrees.
Painting: "Harmony" by Michael Lang.