STEM has become a household word for most educators. It is the emphasis of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But from a futurist’s standpoint, what does that really mean and how will STEM education look in a futurist classroom?

One focus would be that STEM activities should be a blending of the subjects, as opposed to teaching each subject in isolation. A STEM activity would be a problem-solving activity where the student needs to discover the need for all four subjects to solve the problem. What better way to do this than by using the latest technology: Virtual and Augmented Reality.

Let’s consider a quality STEM Activity using the latest technology and trends in education.

The beginning task is for the students to develop an understanding of the science behind the world’s finest roller coasters. The first steps would be for the students to visit some of the world’s best roller coasters in a virtual reality environment. One such environment is YouTube using a virtual reality headset. 

A discussion would follow sharing what they saw, felt and heard while experiencing the virtual ride.  The next step would be to research the science, specifically the physics associated with the creation of a roller coaster.

The students are now ready to go into a virtual reality system such as Unity or CoSpaces. Using their understanding of the physics behind a roller coaster and their past experience of being on a virtual roller coaster, they can be tasked with the creation of a virtual roller coaster that conforms to the laws of physics and science. The students will also be very much involved with the aspects of mathematical understanding as they develop their coasters related to weight and gravity.

Once the virtual coaster engineering is complete, the students will be very anxious to share their unique roller coasters. The students can now share their creations in the virtual world, where other students can also test and critique them. The students can have a review and rework session to perfect this new and improved ride of the future.

The lesson is not yet complete. The students can go into their Makerspace area and have the students create an exact scale model replica of their roller coaster using a marble as their rider. Students will again be involved in all aspects of STEM.

Although STEM education has been thoroughly embraced by all, many educators thought that there may be something missing.

STEAM education was born out of need to add the important arts to our focus areas. When considering our task, including the arts can be another step in our project. The students are designing the roller coaster. They can decorate the roller coaster. Finally, no ride is complete without its own soundtrack blaring into your ears the entire time. The students can create that sound track for their passengers. STEAM education also includes an important digital age skill—creativity.

This is a fantastic example of a fun STEM/STEAM activity!

However, we should not miss an opportunity for our students to use their reading and writing skills. Let’s add an “R” to our acronym and call it STREAM.  It is easy to accommodate the literary skills in our project. Our students can now write about the issues surrounding the creation of their roller coasters. They can develop a creative advertisement for this new coaster of the future opening soon. They can also prepare an article for the newspaper to spur interest in their new arrival and why it will be the best coaster ever.

It is interesting to consider all the new and exciting projects one can include in a STEM environment. One can easily conclude that a STEM or STEAM or STREAM classroom is simply quality instruction incorporating available technology in a project-driven environment.



Dr. L. Robert Furman is an educator, principal, speaker, and published author. Furman currently serves as Principal at South Park Elementary Center and is the author of several books including: “Reading, Technology, and Digital Literacy” ,” Are You Future Ready,” and “Engaging All Readers.” He is a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post and Ed Tech Review. Furman also hosts a well-known YouTube educational video blog called The Seditionists and educational podcast called the Council on the Future of Education.  Further, he has been awarded the National School Board Association’s“20 To Watch” in technology education and a Pittsburgh Tribune Review News Maker of the Year.

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