I think FIRST should continue the push of STEAM

Personally, I think the addition of art into the focus of FIRST is a great idea and should be expanded upon. I hope this is not a 1 season type thing and FIRST continues to push STEAM as opposed to simply STEM going forward, even past Crescendo.

Firstly, it is not anything all that new. We already have awards that celebrate artistic excellence like the Imagery Award, as well as the industrial design award which “Celebrates the team that demonstrates industrial design principles, striking a balance between form, function, and aesthetics.”

Also the excellence in engineering award with one of the guidelines being “ The designs [is] elegant and advantageous on the field of play.”

In addition you have the team spirit award which may not fall clearly under the typical idea of art it certainly is not science, technology, engineering, or math.

The safety animation award is also based off of animation which is definitely an art form.

In addition to awards, many teams have PR and media and/or marketing subteams/task forces/departments/ etc that strive to create aesthetically pleasing work in the form of graphic design, team memorabilia (pins, apparel, costumes), posters, etc.

My main reasons for pushing art are essentially two points:

  1. More students involved. This could hopefully cause more kids to join robotics teams in the hopes they will get to practice their art in some way shape or form.

I see no harm in having more students join robotics teams even if they have no or very little interest in STEM. At worst they get to practice their art skills and experiment in a new environment. At best they discover a newfound love for STEM AND art.

  1. Art is being neglected in American schools. I am not going to cite any specific sources here but if you go to public school in the U.S. you are familiar with the lack of art education as well as the idea that art is not useful or a profitable career.
    The stronger emphasis on art in FIRST may be a way to kind of subsidize student’s lack of art education in school and will give them a chance at real world experience.

Let me know if I missed anything and I’d like to hear other thoughts on this.


You should consider reading the Gould essay on Nabakov “No science without art no art without fact.” It’s a super interesting read that illustrates the issues we have with the polarization between STEM and the humanities/arts.


I was sitting in the crowd when I saw the game reveals for names and heard the mumbles of how dumb it is because “art doesn’t fit the same theme of like, math and science” and all that bull. Personally, and someone who cannot do math to save my life, would have felt more representation if they embraced STEAM. CAD is an art. Making signs and buttons is an art. Being able to map out where the robot should drive is an art. Designing prototypes is an art. I could go on.
To me, making a successful and well rounded robotics team is an art. If you just focus on the math and science of it, you completely negate the creativity you need to develop and grow.


We’ve come a long ways from the A in STEAM stands for Air


I think at least some of those grumbles come from a good place, as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math all inherently embrace art to some folks.

STEAM feels sort of like listing the ingredients of a pizza as “dough, sauce, cheese, plant cells, and pepperoni”, if that makes sense. I understand the push to make it explicit, but at the same time that feels like it undermines the structure of the acronym?


I can kind of agree on you with that. It is a little weird, but I think it’s one of those things were if you don’t address it and make the effort to make it part of the bigger picture many people will still view it as “less than”


I also have a theory that “toxic masculinity” or whatever it goes by might play some part in the continued exclusion. I was having a conversation the other day where someone proposed industrial design as being “mechanical engineering, but with art” and that really rubbed me weird in the moment. It’s all a sliding scale, and it’s more that the type of art shifts, rather than there being quantitively more or less of it inherent to any particular STEM field.


I don’t know if it is something to do with toxic masculinity or a lack of a better term, but more so the stereotypes. Kind of like a movie set in high school (high school musical is a great example) where you can only be this thing and can’t go outside of that and be something else at the same time.

I think we are both on the same side of this argument but just saying things a little different!


The kind of engineering education we embrace and promote in FRC becomes a bit of a slippery slope of inclusion. There’s absolutely artistic principles and skills that get developed alongside the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, but there’s also business, creative writing, social and leadership skills, networking, brand identity, strategy, and a host of other aspects of competitive robotics beyond the typical “STEM” attributes. I think it would be silly to claim that the artistic experience gained from FIRST programs is inherently more prominent or important than, for example, the business and leadership experiences. The same could be said about any of the other skills and experiences the program provides, but nobody is suggesting rebranding STEM to STEAMBCWSLNBIS.

The acronym STEM was created as a way of grouping together like-subjects with specific shared attributes. While I’m not an original-acronym-purist, I do think there must be a better way of recognizing and including the other aspects of the program without watering down the original message. FIRST has always been about inspiration and recognition of science and technology - it’s in the name.


For the acronym purists the original STEM acronym was apparently SMET. And if the scientists, mathematicians, and engineers were so bad at branding that SMET was the best they could do with those letters, I think the A earned its place just by fixing the acronym.

My professional experience has been that acronym growth is inevitable. For some reason people love adding more letters to existing acronyms. The best case scenario is the acronym becomes ungainly and people revert back to using real words. The worst case scenario is you get acronyms of acronyms, and that happens far too frequently.


Personally I have no problem with introducing “art” to STEM, as long as it’s complementary and doesn’t detract from the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math parts.

To be honest, years back when the push for changing “STEM” into “STEAM” started, I was convinced it was mostly just a ploy to divert STEM funding into Art programs (and I’m still not entirely convinced that it isn’t). Arts are important to have too, but if their promotion detracts from FIRST’s focus on STEM, then I’d consider it at least somewhat self-defeating.


Right, the problem with STEAM is that it potentially counters the original intent of the STEM initiative. You could also say that putting together great awards submissions or business plans requires humanities skills as well, so why not expand the acronym to SHTEAM? I’m not saying art and humanities aren’t valuable, but to me this is going in the direction of “if you focus on everything, you focus on nothing.”


I was meeting with my team reviewing award submissions this year and trying to articulate the point that well-rounded education requires Art as much as it requires Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, and this is what I came up with: “STEM Education Builds Better Robots, STEAM Education Builds Better Humans.”


Art is a huge part of the success of any company.

Digital media and the skillset required to produce it is extremely valuable.

Good job FIRST.


Look, I’m all for inclusion as the next person. But changing STEM to STEAM completely loses the point of why it was STEM in the first place. STEAM could quite literally encompass anything you want it to. It adds a layer of ambiguity and increases the net of who falls under that to be so large as to not mean anything (Arts could be: Liberal Arts, Artists, Music, etc). Can we just say that we want to support education in general, instead of having to come up with a silly acronym in order to sell it to an audience that is very much focused on STEM?

(Note: I am incredibly bitter and annoyed by this acronym, and by god is it incredibly stupid. Look, why isn’t this just another thing under the “It’s more than Robots” slogan? Overall this just feels unneccesary, and feels like people who aren’t in STEM fields adding a qualifier to STEM so that everyone and anyone regardless of specialization can claim that they are also STEM)


STEM in and of itself has many meanings and interpretation based on what stakeholders and leaders want to get out of it.


These images were taken from this website but are from originally from this publication by Rodger Bybee who discusses this interpretation further. The Bybee (2013) publication has a few more diagrams that show other interpretations of the acronym.

I imagine that the choice to use STEAM over STEM this year has to do entirely with bringing the arts in as a theme for next season. I have seen so many other applications of the acronym by adding letters like r for robotics and reading to make STREAM, eSTEM for entrepreneurship, and iSTEM of innovation or invention.

It’s my opinion that these other acronyms do cause confusion and that we can always just focus on the meat in the STEM sandwich, Technology and Engineering, since they are the application of Math, Science, Arts, Reading, and any other subject where we have gained hard and soft-skills which may be needed to develop technology. I am a little biased being a Technology & Engineering Education Teacher though :wink:


STEM was originally a push by industry to get more people majoring in fields that would provide them with qualified employees.

STEAM is a push by the education world to make well-rounded students who appreciate the interconnectedness of all fields of study.

STEM tends to be exclusive while STEAM is more inclusive… sometimes to a fault. Without explicit rationalization for the inclusion of Arts into STEM, you can find yourself on a slippery slop. We had a meeting years ago on my campus where English teachers wanted to add an R to STEAM to make it STREAM… the R was for Reading. You know, because you need to read when doing STEAM stuff. It was hard to draw a line in the sand on that since no one had properly outlined why the Arts should be included in the first place.

Art has a place if the place is well defined. My buddy is a professor of Industrial Design at CSULB. He teaches students how to work with engineers to make really cool products and solutions. He works in the College of the Arts.

FRC has an Industrial Design award that “Celebrates the team that demonstrates industrial design principles, striking a balance between form, function, and aesthetics.”

So, yes, Arts have do have a critical role in participating in FRC.

Music? …I’m not sold on that one yet. We’ll see in January 2024.


I think, in general, isolating technical disciplines (traditional science, technology, engineering, and math) from liberal arts, social science, visual arts, and performing arts is unnecessary. I get the interest in promoting technical fields, but I think we often miss an opportunity for interdisciplinary education.

The engineer that can’t sell their invention because they can’t market it will fail. The mathematician who cannot secure funding to further pursue their breakthrough discovery will fail. The technologist who cannot communicate technical concepts in layman’s terms will fail.

I’ve always been against the idea of teaching or promoting STEM in a bubble. This is one of the reasons I think FIRST works so well – it emphasizes the need for an interdisciplinary approach. Our students who come out of programs like FLL are far better poised for success than those who do purely STEM-based activities without a research project and presentations, for example.

I don’t much care what we do with the acronyms, but I do care that we continue to integrate other disciplines instead.

Someone who works in IT and sees the difference between a purely technical thinker and a well rounded thinker
(Also someone who used to work in government/politics and sees the difference between a pure social scientist and a well rounded thinker)


As someone whose day job is communicating about infrastructure mega projects to the general public, I can assure you that integrating arts into STEM education is vital. I’ve worked with many engineers who regularly have spelling and grammatical errors despite being a native English speaker. This is on top of trying to use technical jargon with a non technical audience. I’ve watched projects grind to a halt because the project team didn’t see the importance of communicating effectively with stakeholders.

To any students reading this: you personally don’t have to be an eloquent communicator to succeed in engineering, but you need to work effectively with and understand the importance of your communication team members. In the real world, you can have the best idea in the world, but if you can’t share it with others in a way they’ll understand, then it won’t become reality.


Does STEAM include writing the manual to mean what it says? (or say what it means?)