Dr. Aaron L. Smith, Program Director, Denbigh High School's Aviation Academy

Dr. Aaron L. Smith is the Program Director at Denbigh High School’s Aviation Academy located in Newport News, Virginia.  Aaron’s work includes being an educator at multiple levels. Aaron received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Christopher Newport University and his Master’s in Mathematics and Teaching.  His Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership was obtained at Old Dominion University, where he compared the effectiveness of teacher licensure pathways. Aaron is also the author of Awakening Your STEM School and has over two decades of experience in the classroom as a mathematics teacher and administrator; where some of his highlights include having received the Crystal Star Award from the National Dropout Prevention Center, earning the State Partnership Award from the Virginia Department of Education, and being identified as one of the Top 50 Excellence in Education from the Global Forum for Education and Learning


Regardless of where educators teach worldwide, many are familiar with the basics regarding integrating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Today’s educators lead Integrating S.T.E.M. at all levels of formal and informal learning but also bear the sole responsibility of educating a nation’s workforce in technologies being developed and deployed into the work environment.

This foundation of an interdisciplinary approach harnesses vital skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking that transfer learning from teacher-centered to student-centered.

The concept of STEM has existed since the early 2000s and continues to affect how teachers approach this relatively new era of learning. Still, most people don’t realize that STEM is more than just a classroom experience.

In fact, the significance of STEM in the economy, workforce development, and closing the skills gap. In developed countries, the vital role of STEM is the leading contributor to the annual GDP, job creation, and the nation’s direct ability to achieve sustainability using natural resources that otherwise would go undiscovered.

Countries such as the United States use STEM in Career and Technical Education courses where they can concentrate an entire course around competencies.

Through the first decade of STEM, the concept ameliorates to a better and more sophisticated design: STEM 2.0.

STEM 2.0 takes the foundation of STEM and focuses on the future workforce. Considering what future jobs demand and what education needs to provide, STEM 2.0 centers on four key concepts: employability skills, innovation excellence, digital fluency, and hard skills.

These remain as pertinent in the classroom as they are in the workforce.

Thanks to time and the evolution of STEM 1.0 and 2.0, we now have the framework for STEM 3.0 to emerge at the forefront.

What is STEM 3.0?

STEM 3.0 builds on the success of the original concept of STEM and uses STEM 2.0 to connect new products and advancements.

Focusing on these four components will help catapult us into a new era.

One where the world can advance all realms that STEM touches with the potential to eradicate some of the ongoing global issues.

Let’s break down STEM 3.0.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a field that fuses the latest technology and big data to activate problem-solving on a macro level. Using machine learning and algorithms, AI can create complex systems and perform various tasks such as prediction, analysis, or classification based on the provided data sets.

Modeling and Simulation – constructing multiple models to serve as a simulation baseline to harness data in which decisions advance a particular concept. Modeling and simulation incorporate a mathematical model containing decisive variables of the physical model and replicate the conditions from which the analysis is studied.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) – when one takes one’s own emotions to identify other people’s emotions. EI channels skills like emotional awareness and empathy, empowering individuals to help infer potential tendencies from others.

Soft Skills – The Industrial Revolution 4.0 has shifted how we work, especially when sharing information.  Creating new processes and sharing information allow people to see how their work can transform a new product and, sometimes, the industry.

Skills like communicating, listening, time management, adaptability, and work ethics play a vital role in how the information is relayed to others.  Without this essential set of skills, the ability to advance original thinking would severely affect crucial tasks needing to be completed.

Seeing How SDGs Is Advanced Through Growth In STEM 3.0

Because of the need for creative and innovative ideas to drive solutions, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined seventeen goals that state many of the current dilemmas we see today across the globe.

Take, for example, the need to acquire food with limited land and water.  That’s where Smart Farming comes into play.

Smart Farming is where farmers analyze troves of data, gaining insight unlike what they’ve never experienced before.

Farmers use the data to help with operations, mapping out land and conducting visual records that optimize a farmer’s ability to manage their schedules and budgets based on the crops they harvest.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) and other tools aid farmers in the process so they work smarter, not harder.

When this happens, many of the SDGs get referred.

It becomes not only an economy shifter but also an employment generator.

The benefits of Smart farming include:

  • Producing a plethora of data from the sensors across the farm.
  • Controlling and updating processes, resulting in higher production and distribution.
  • Reducing costs and excess.
  • Enhancing products and volumes.
  • Generating higher revenue.
  • Minimizing the carbon footprint.
  • Creating new jobs from specialized skills.
  • Boosting the local economy from salaries to placing farmer’s products on the market.

Bringing It Back To The Classroom

What must not be forgotten in this process is that classrooms must be involved.  Not only to enjoy the fruits and vegetables but also to share in the ability to work on the farms and replicate the process so everyone in the community wins.

This augments the process for the farmers and engages students at all levels in many capacities.

Teachers will no longer use rote learning.  Instead, they refine the existing model by taking live data, current practices, and real-time examples.

Educators can then help farmers maximize their farms through new models and simulated experiences, making it a win-win situation for everyone.

Benefits of sharing access with examples like Smart Farming include:

  • Using real-time data, students can explore ways farmers can optimize their land and crops better.
  • Creating new prototypes for farmers to experiment with on their farms.
  • Identifying new processes and models
  • Interning on the farm gives students invaluable experience.
  • Enabling school and university leaders to see the future and where to change courses and curricula based upon those needs.
  • Providing teachers with fresh content to apply in multiple subjects regardless of grade or ability.

SDGs married to STEM 3.0 lay the framework for success in schools and society and can become a generation changer.  We must look at our future with optimization because we can already solve tomorrow’s problems today.

It’s up to us to recognize that nothing’s impossible now, thanks to STEM 3.0.

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