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What is STEM?

What is STEM?

5 October 2020

STEM is an integrated educational approach focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and maths in a way that excites and engages young people. The philosophy aims to make lessons more project-based and interactive as opposed to working from a textbook. Its goal is to align these subjects with real life problem solving so that students can navigate situations in the future, whether personal or professional.

STEM expertise is integral to the functioning of the British Army, and it features in many ways throughout the Army Cadets’ programming, from signals to navigation.

What does STEM stand for?

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and maths. STEM educators prefer these subjects to be taught together rather than on their own, as most jobs will require a combination of skillsets across all four. STEM education combines the four subjects and teaches these skills to young people through situation-based learning.

The acronym dates back to 2001, when it was developed by administrators from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It’s become increasingly popular in the years since and is now commonly used in educational and policy settings.

How does STEM help young people?

The way that STEM education is taught encourages children from all backgrounds to thrive and become more engaged with science, technology, engineering and maths, potentially following a career path in one of these industries. An understanding of STEM subjects is also widely applicable in general life, as our daily exposure to these topics increases.

STEM educators work with schools, colleges and universities, as well as community and voluntary groups like the Army Cadet Force, to:

  • Assist with classes and activities, as well as mentoring and coaching
  • Run STEM-based competitions and extra-curricular STEM clubs
  • Offer placements to help those pursuing a STEM career
  • Encourage families and communities to recognise the value of STEM
  • Create physical and online resources and research solutions
  • Increase young people’s engagement, interest and achievements in STEM subjects
  • Increase employability of young people by advancing their skills and knowledge
Three cadets wearing the ACF uniform at a table

How does STEM education help teachers?

STEM education helps teachers, support staff and informal educators in various ways. Ultimately, the goal of changing the way we teach STEM subjects is to improve the education system and help raise the employability of students. STEM:

  • Helps educators become more confident, motivated and enthusiastic
  • Improves the quality of leadership and teaching
  • Makes the curriculum interesting, increasing motivation and engagement in teachers and students
  • Increases educators’ enjoyment of their work and progress in their role
A cadet wearing the ACF uniform pulls a thin rope outside

How does STEM help employers?

STEM education helps young people pursue careers within these subjects, and, in turn, gives employers

enthusiastic, motivated and skilled employees further down the line. STEM education also:

  • Allows employers to access a group of young people with vast STEM and employability skills, potentially strengthening their workforce in the future
  • Helps industries appeal to young people and inform families about different STEM career prospects

Where to do STEM activities

Pre-pandemic, STEM workshops popped up all over the UK, usually during school holidays. Workshops provide even more opportunity for children to learn about science, technology, engineering and maths in a fun, engaging and interactive way.

At the ACF, our cadets are invited to an annual five-day STEM camp. This consists of presentations and hands-on challenges delivered by the Army’s leading STEM experts. These experts specialise in different key areas, usually based around high-tech military equipment.

This year, understandably, the STEM camp has been moved to a virtual learning centre instead. However, the same mix of interactive activities, presentations and insight into the role of STEM in the Army will all be available. Taking place from October 26th- 29th, cadets from all over the UK will have access to a full schedule given by a range Corps Engagement Teams (CETs):

  • Royal Signals – The Army’s communications Corps of leaders in IT, Cyber and Telecommunications
  • Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) – The Army’s Corps of professional engineers
  • Royal Artillery CET – The artillery arm of the British Army
  • Corps of Royal Engineers – The Army’s military engineers
  • Army Air Corps (AAC) – The Army’s combat aviation arm
  • Royal Logistics Corps (RLC) – The Army’s professional logisticians
  • Intelligence Corps – The Army’s information gathering and intelligence analysis arm
  • Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC) – The Army’s providers of multiple support elements, including Royal Military Police (RMP) and Staff and Personnel Support (SPS)
  • Army Medical Services (AMS) – The Army’s healthcare providers
Two Adult Volunteers use a whiteboard to present a lesson to ACF cadets seated on the ground during a STEM class

Topics will vary for each session, but they will all focus on the skills and techniques used to overcome military problems in various scenarios by using STEM. You can expect intelligence missions, breakout rooms, challenges, quizzes and the chance to ask the experts questions.

Each cadet will spend 2.5 hours each morning immersed in these scenarios, with afternoons free to enjoy the half term break. There will also be guest speakers on two of the evenings – a Cadet Ambassador and an Army Recruitment presentation on STEM careers.

Spaces are still available for cadets on this year’s Virtual STEM Camp! If you’re interested, speak to your Detachment Commander to find out more.

At the end of the four-day event, all participating cadets will receive:

  • the National STEM Camp Badge
  • a record of attendance in their Record of Service
  • an Industrial Cadet Award certificate and badge from the eTrust

STEM learning is just one of the many ways being a part of the Army Cadets improves your employability. You can gain qualifications like BTEC and Diplomas, as well as take part in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. You will also work on personal skills like leadership, decision making and teamwork. Find out more about joining the cadets and get in touch.