ThoughtSTEM Highlight: Jason Le

By Philip Ballew
June 21, 2018

Coding is about community. It benefits from community. Go out and get involved.

Jason has worked with tech his entire life, it is something he enjoys and he likes to teach others to share his interests. Seemingly unrelated parts of life can be enhanced and given meaning by STEM. It changes the fundamental way people look at problems they face and can grant a new and meaningful perspective.

One of Jason’s biggest passions, as he will talk about in the interview, is adding STEM into everyday life. Jason also is very much a proponent  that the arts absolutely can not be left out, for Jason is also a big believer in STEAM. Art can greatly enhance the aesthetic value and approachability of tech for others. Knowledge in STEM can also help artists create better work as these skills are interconnected and can complement each other. It is important that people in our modern world understand what value it has in their daily lives so that they may use STEAM to its full potential. You get out of STEAM what you put into it. It is something that requires work, but it is greatly rewarding.

(Note: STEM and STEAM will be used interchangeably here, one means Science Technology Engineering Mathematics, and STEAM is all of this with Art added in)

STEM seems to be a passion of yours, what makes you so involved in STEM Education?

Largely speaking, the main reason I was able to be so passionate about technology as an adult, was my constant fiddling with tech as a child. As an educator today, I see the need for STEM being a more active role of students daily lives, and I personally feel that comes from the large benefits STEM has played for me from a young age.

When I was young, I felt that my exposure to STEM helped me gain confidence because of my ability to accomplish tasks

When I was young, I felt that my exposure to STEM helped me gain confidence because of my ability to accomplish tasks, often with tangible results. It’s these results that allow me to continue to feel the same passion I did back then, today.

What ways do you feel STEM enhances students lives outside of STEM topics themselves?

Putting STEM into everyday items that kids use, has been a great way for me to see a growth in STEM use among kids. Sort of lowering the distance between the student and the technology itself. One of the ways I see this as easily doable is putting mathematics in ordinary things kids interact with.

I think I have the ability to show the world that my love of STEAM is something anyone can have. You often will have people say they do not like math, or they hate science, but they love art. I like to show how they are all connected and can work together. For instance using some skills from math and science, you can enhance the art projects you are working on.

STEAM is for everyone. In other fields, you can learn to apply a problem solving skill learned in STEM that creates a new approach, and way of looking at the problem that provides a new solution.

You have said that “STEM is a fundamental part of a students full learning experience”. Can you see a difference in students exposed to STEM topics at an early age, vs those that have not been?

The more you put into it [STEAM], the more you get out of it.

Students who have STEM topics as part of their daily lives, will find themselves more equipped to handle problems in life. Now this might just be anecdotal, but from my experience, STEM skills, help you look at a problem, separate it out, and see how to solve it.

I have found in addition to knowing how to solve a problem, it gives appreciation, for the ability to do just that. Some people see a problem and get frustrated, and students exposed to STEM at a young age, will, from my experience, get less frustrated, and instead take that energy and use it to find a solution. Children may see things differently, which can help with problem solving and dealing with what may otherwise be frustrating conflicts.

 

What are your thoughts on parents saying that putting students in front of a computer, just adds more screen time, no matter what they are doing in front of it?

That’s actually a question I get a lot. And it’s completely understandable. And for many people, they don’t differentiate what happens on a computer screen. The value depends on what your doing with regard to computer screens.

If you are being creative it can have value. You should design things and apply creative thinking skills to give it value. It is similar to a parent who has a job in front of a computer most of the day, vs sitting and watching TV all day.

 

What ways do you see STEM education changing in the future?

The lines between STEM and “ordinary education” are already blurring. I see them becoming ubiquitous. STEM is becoming more and more the essence of the students learning. This trend is not only going to continue, but it will be something that helps parts of education we see as Non-STEM currently.

For instance, their math class might have programing built it, and their art class will have digital design included. It’s less of a class devoted to computers, and programing, but more classes with programming built in.

 

How has STEM and maker culture changed since you got involved in the industry?

The inclusion of STEAM. Art getting involved not only helps people get more involved in STEM fields, but it makes people realize that the notion at computer programing and art being different is wrong.

The more we can teach people who normally consider themselves to be ‘creatives’, to understand traditionally math and science ideas, and vice versa, the more our culture will not have people fall behind in either of these categories.

I know many people will want to argue, art and science are two separate entities, but instead, I would argue they are much more similar than people realize.

What ways can you encourage parents to help teach STEM in the daily lives of students?

Learning is a community effort. It is more fun to learn with others. Coding specifically can be great fun when you do it with others. I’d encourage all parents to attend events with communities and schools. Go out and get involved, learning is more fun with other people. Spread the word. It is not just about the individual. Coding is about community. It benefits from community. Go out and get involved.

Closing

Jason is one of my new favorite people. What I feel is one of his greatest assets he has as well, that helps him at ThoughtSTEM, is his approachability. All around a great guy. Jason is someone worth getting to know if you ever have the chance!

STEM is something that will become an even more important part of our lives. It has already grown in prominence and may cease to be a niche extracurricular activity and instead become an integrated part of curriculum for all subjects, even the more artistic ones. So that children may prepare themselves for this future, it is advised that they try to engage with the community and seek out events at their schools and local groups. Learning will always be more fun with others, and to ensure that this time in front of the monitor is valuable we must make it worthwhile through teaching technical skills and encouraging creative thought.