By Corinne Pachl / November 08, 2021

STEM/STEAM inspires students! Let’s innovate (N-OV-8)

Updated 6/17/24

It’s a bit hazy and, arguably, debatable as to when STEM actually became a “thing.” Some contend it’s been around since the race for space was initiated in the late 1950s/early 1960s. Others say it‘s been present since the 1970s/1980s when huge technological advances were occurring (i.e., the Macintosh and first cell phone). Still others will proffer it was the 1990s when education councils were setting curriculum standards with more emphasis for science, technology, engineering, and math.

But what we definitively know is that “the STEM acronym was introduced in 2001 by scientific administrators at the US National Science Foundation (NSF). The organization previously used the acronym SMET when referring to the career fields in or a curriculum that integrated knowledge and skills from those fields. In 2001, however, American biologist Judith Ramaley, then assistant director of education and human resources at NSF, rearranged the words to form the STEM acronym.


And that’s when STEM surged onto the education landscape with motivation from several academic studies showing the US had a deficit in proficiencies within STEM fields as well as from President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate Initiative.

Harvey White, cofounder of Qualcomm Inc. and Leap Wireless International Inc., is credited with coining the term STEAM in a speech he gave to the San Diego Economic Development Corporation around 2010. Since then, STEAM has become increasingly popular.


And, now, here we are with a day dedicated to STEM/STEAM education – November 8 is National STEM/STEAM Day. It’s a day set aside to encourage exploration of science, technology, engineering, and math; foster interest in related career paths; and inspire innovation for better lives and a better world overall. Per the genius of the Internet, we can stand in awe that the date itself, November 8, is a nod to its mission and a charge to go forth and N-O-V8, or innovate. Mind blown, right?

Celebrate and Innovate

In light of that, we can’t let this day pass by without recognition, and the best way we know how to do that is to get hands on, minds on.


We often discuss how STEM and STEAM learning can be achieved in the classroom and why it’s important for learners to have access to hands-on, cross-curricular activities. Generally speaking, a well-rounded education leads to a well-rounded person! So, we’ve rounded up some fun activities and ideas to help you and your students celebrate and innovate in your classroom.

Pitsco activities, reviewed and referred by Everyday Graces and My Little Poppies:

Activities from other STEM sources:

Hobbies for More Inspiration

When most of us were stuck at home in previous years, some people found new hobbies that have managed to stick – for example, I finally got the nerve to break out the sewing machine sitting in the corner to do something I always wanted to do: make a dress. I dove into the world of precise measurements, geometry, and pins and needles in order to create something aesthetically pleasing. And my first attempt just inspired me to continue trying!

Of course, not all hobbies or STEAM activities have to be so complicated (or prickly). Here are some examples your learners can do any place or any time!

  • Combine a love for space with art! NASA’s Langley Research Center has invited children and teens in Grades K-12 to enter their art contest, which usually accepts entries in the month of December 1-31.
  • Have a STEM movie night! Like Disney movies? Watch Big Hero 6 and talk about how Baymax could exist in the real world! Or try The Wind Rises, a moving animated bio of a Japanese aircraft designer. Want something a little more grounded? Try Hidden Figures, October Sky, or The Theory of Everything (for 13+) to learn about real people and their passion for STEM. For that matter – anything sci-fi is up for grabs!
  • Experiment with food! Baking especially is very scientific, as a little too much baking soda or an absence of eggs will alter the structural integrity of the final dish entirely. But there are all kinds of edible ways to learn about STEM; the Learn in Color blog has dozens of ideas you can do at home.
  • Kids often find the grocery store terribly boring, but you can’t just leave them at home while you run errands. So, try involving them in a STEM way – tell them how everything in the produce section grows on a farm. Explain why boxes of cereal are shaped tall and skinny. Do they know that someone had to design the layout of the store, with grab-and-go items by the cash registers and certain items placed in the most visible spots on the shelf? And, of course, if your child is older, they could help by budgeting, writing the shopping list, or reading nutrition labels.
  • Take STEM to the playground! Why do you swing higher if you start from farther back? How fast do you go when you slide down the slide? Why does a seesaw not stay perfectly level on its own?

Or, if you’ve run out of ideas around the house and around town, set up your child with a new STEM kit or activity that can be done just about anywhere. Try one of these project kits, such as STEM Boxes, which contain all the materials you need for 15 activities/challenges; Arduino electronics kits; bundles of light-up fun for early learners; and much much more!

Happy STEM/STEAM Day and three cheers for continued innovation!

Comment and let us know if you have other ideas, if you’ve tried any of the activities listed here, or what you’re doing to celebrate.

So, let’s innovate on this N-O-V8! How will you and your learners celebrate?


PS: Just for the record, we believe Pitsco has been providing hands-on STEM education long before STEM was cool. 😉


TOPICS: Middle School, Elementary School, High School, ROBOTICS, Science, Technology, STEM, Engineering, Coding, Authentic Learning, Activities, TETRIX Robotics, Hands-on Learning, STEAM, innovate, Inquiry-based Learning, Art

Corinne Pachl

Written by Corinne Pachl

It takes a lot of organization and detailed work to be the marketing projects coordinator at Pitsco, but it’s what I do best, and I love what I do! I also love learning new skills, especially when it comes to crafting and cooking, and it’s my plan to visit all 50 United States before I turn 35. Wish me luck!