From STEM to FLY |


The acronym STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – appeared in the United States around 2013. What caused the buzz? In the fields of science, computer science, engineering, and mathematics, there was too little interest among the American population. Therefore, a large influx of experts working in this field was needed. STEAL – science, technology, engineering, art, languages ​​- has been around since 2016. This acronym was introduced by the author at a conference, “STEM or STEAL?

With the advent of desktops, tablets and smartphones, everything has become technology. So gadgets and widgets are also technology. In this text, technology is defined as the highest term, in the pioneering sense of Johann Beckmann. This German agronomist and chamberlain invented the name Technology (technology) over three centuries ago (1777). Its definition is given in an amended form: “Technology is the global science of the entanglement of technique, society and humanism.

The sense of technology

The English language does not have a word that reproduces the German word, Wissenschaft (all sciences). In English, science refers to the natural sciences, as pointed out, among others, by the Nobel laureate Roger Penrose.

Engineering is part of technique. The techniques began as part of material culture around 3.4 million years ago, when the first artifact was made from an inanimate object, stone. The stonemason made the first stonemason. According to Wikipedia, the term engineer probably dates from the time of Leonardo da Vinci and therefore from the development of engineering. This has been on the timescale since the start of the technique relatively recently. Which came first: the technique or the socio-humanist analysis of its consequences? The answer to this question means the following. First there was the stonemason who made this stonemason. Neither this individual nor anyone today cares how something is done or what it is done. All that matters is whether to skin the animals (tools) or use them against the enemy (weapons). The path of globalization of the first stone tools described here began in Lomekwa, West Turkana, Kenya (around 3.3 million years ago), followed by Gona, Ethiopia (around 2.5 to 2 , 6 million years old) and Olduvai in Tanzania (about 1.6 million years old).

What does technology mean in modern parlance? There are only three basic concepts: information, energy and matter. At the same time, there are only two basic systems: information systems (IS) and cyber (netic) -physical systems (CPS).

Systems that have energy and mass at the input and output are CPS. At the input is information in the form of data and commands, and at the output is data. With the addition of robots, sensors, etc., CPSs become artificial technical systems. G. Ropohl developed an example of a computer as a technical information and energy system (SI). At the entrance are energy and information in the form of data and commands. Only information is the output. In this case, the only word available is computer. According to Rohol’s classification of technical systems of things according to predominant production and class of function, it unequivocally follows that all phenomena in the world can be described as mass, energy or information (Figure 1).

Igor Catic
Figure 1. Classification of technical systems according to the predominant production (G. Ropohl, 1979).

Depending on the function class, it is possible to distinguish the processes of change (conversion or remodeling), transfer and storage. There are six basic techniques. Depending on performance, these are materials, energy and IT. Depending on the function class, a distinction is made between production technology, transport technology and storage technology. All that remains is computing for information systems. According to the classes of the computer function, it includes information processing techniques, measurement and control techniques, information transfer techniques and information storage techniques. This is why the author chooses as the correct translation of STEM: the natural sciences as invariant, or intrinsic, domains for the living and the non-living, computer science, engineering and mathematics.

Transition from STEM to STEAL

Supplements to STEM appeared quickly, including STEAM, where the letter A stands for art. Art is an ambiguous word in this case. A of meanings is art. But Leonardo da Vinci said that art is more of a “something” profession. What is “that something”? It is the heart and soul of the artist. Everyone is able to make shapes. But what separates the sculptor from the stonemason is just “that something”. This is what comes from within the artist.

One kind of path to STEAL was the article, “What does STEM mean and why the acronym SSH matters” (I. Catic, VL, 2015). The acronym for this means social and human sciences. He stresses that socio-humanistic knowledge is also important for an educated person.

The Plastics Industry Association in its statement dated March 19, 2019, announced that it has joined a group of similar organizations promoting the complex abbreviation STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine).

The pyramid of knowledge

In 1987, the author got acquainted with the pyramid of knowledge advanced by the American philosopher of English descent, Frederic Turner. Noting the lack of technique in the proposed pyramid, he spoke in 1990 in Dallas with Turner. The image gradually improved and is now published as Turner-Čatić’s Advanced Educational Pyramid of Knowledge. The STEAL concept is science, technology, engineering, art and languages. Figure 2 shows the latest version.

Igor Caticknowledge pyramid
Figure 2. Turner-Čatić advanced educational pyramid of knowledge.

The complete pyramid contains a division into sciences made by discoveries, D-sciences, and those based on inventions, I-sciences. For example, biology and archeology are about discoveries, while biotechnology and (inanimate) techniques are based on inventions. The first layer, languages, is fundamental for all the other layers. If you want to deepen your knowledge, you have to go down the “pyramid”. Generalization requires escalation. The laws established in the first three layers – languages, physics and chemistry – are invariant with respect to the animate and the inanimate. The middle layer is general techniques, which is an important difference from the original Turner pyramid.

Interdisciplinary fields

A careful reading of the pyramid reveals that it lacks some important sciences – ecology, ethics, information and communication, and synthesiology, with systematic theory as its basis. These are in fact interdisciplinary fields. Ecological considerations begin with product development. Ethical issues of practical interest are only partially covered. Integrative ethics has two fundamental components: bioethics and technoethics. Information and communication sciences are also necessary for everyone, so they are an interdisciplinary field. Finally, if the abundance of information is to allow the essential generalization into new knowledge and perspectives, it is necessary that everyone knows the basics of synthesiology, a science which is celebrating its first century of existence this year. In doing so, it should be noted on the basis of the synthesis, a theory of the system, necessary for every modern individual, not just for highly qualified professionals.

If we look closely, all the knowledge necessary for the successful education of a modern individual ready to face new challenges is represented in the pyramid. This is the explanation of the acronym STEAL.


It has been found that in this abundance of information, it is difficult to transfer terminology from one language to another without understanding what it is. In the first half of the second decade of the 21st century, STEM was just a buzzword in the service of a country.

About the Author

This article is based on a series of Croatian texts by the author, Professor Emeritus Igor Čatić of the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and winner of the SPE International Education Award (1998). He is a member of IOM3 GB (since 1978), SPE and VDI (Germany) and heads the first chair in polymer processing in this part of Europe. Čatić has published 49 papers for ANTEC. The original idea for the Pyramid of Knowledge comes from Dr Frederick Turner in 1987.

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