The Internet of Things seems to be an important buzzword right now. For those who are new to the term, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is the catchall for the emerging field of Internet-enabled devices that we now find in our home or on our person. Everything from our thermostat to our oven, from our fitness tracker to our smartwatch falls under this new term. In short, it means our devices are getting smarter and smarter devices mean smarter people are necessary to build them.
All of this continues to feed into this concept of the STEM gap - we need more people trained in the technical fields of science and engineering but the number of people we need to fill those roles is actually in decline.
The reality is that we are just starting to explore the capabilities of these IoT devices right now. You can probably form a pretty legitimate argument that our alarm clock does not need to be online but one would have probably said the same thing about a thermostat. The reality is that by having a "smart" thermostat that can vary temperature settings based on whether or not you are home or monitor energy prices to reduce consumption at peak cost, these devices can make a real difference.
So we need a new generation of engineer that is capable of new design thinking. By making STEM education not just accessible but also by making it more interesting, we at least have a chance of closing the STEM gap sometime in the future. It's important to not only make it interesting but also to start younger. By the time students get to middle school, it is almost too late. They have formed their opinions and locked in on their interests. By introducing STEM at the early ages (yes, even pre-K and Kindergarten), we can inspire children to learn more about the amazing science and engineering all around them. You never know - today's 4-year-old may design tomorrow's internet-enabled toothbrush!