What’s the deal with the ‘E’ in STEAM? Practical ways to plan for engineering in your classroom


When I was starting one of our STEAM workshops a few months back, I asked the teachers for any specific questions they had before we started. I always try to be honest when I don’t know the answer, and say “I actually don’t know about that one.” One of the teachers asked a question which received that answer. They asked “What does the E in STEAM actually look like in practice?”

E Pic 2

[bctt tweet=”Ever wonder what the ‘E’ in STEM and STEAM actually means for your students? ” username=”markherringnz”]

Last week I had the opportunity to work with a team of lecturers at a regional polytechnic to facilitate a holiday program on coding and robotics. One of the lecturers was described as an engineer. Learning as much as I could from him became my new hidden agenda!

So how do we separate the key areas of science and technology from engineering? Here are some my key takeaways from my conversations with the engineer.

[bctt tweet=”Do you know how to plan for the engineering concepts when engaging students in STEAM learning? Here are some ideas. ” username=”markherringnz”]

First, you can look at engineering as the intersection between science and technology. Science can be described as what we understand about the world around us, and technology as the human response to a ‘need or a want.’

E Pic 3

Technology is either the products or systems that solve a problem and can also involve ideas such as ‘rules of thumb’ or experience that comes over time. To understand engineering then, is to use what we know from both fields and combine them in disciplines such as mechanics or electrics (more on this below). To be an engineer is to have the knowledge and skillset to combine the areas of science and technology in ways that are productive and meaningful.

An example of this is the design of a suspension bridge. To construct a successful bridge, an engineer needs the math and physics knowledge (science) to understand the loads and tensions placed on each part of the structure. They then need to be able to combine this knowledge with an understanding of the bracings, nuts and bolts, and commonly used techniques and tools (technology) to cater for these loads. The combination of these two disciplines form the engineering capability that the bridge design needs.

E pic 4

We also discussed the difference between ‘theoretical’ and ‘trade’ engineering. It’s easy, apparently, for there to be confusion between the two. In one sense, being an ‘engineer’ is someone who deals mainly in hands-on tasks and processes. While a ‘theoretical’ engineer is someone skilled with the conceptual understandings and theories of what makes effective design. Engineers can also be skilled somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Lastly, engineering can be seen in terms of four key disciplines. This graphic below shows these four disciplines, which are:

  • Chemical
  • Civil
  • Electrical
  • Mechanical

Students can build expertise in any of these areas after starting with a grounding in the basic skills and understandings that come from STEAM learning opportunities.

E Pic 5

So, how can we help students see and reflect on the engineering skills they may be developing in a STEAM project? One way could be to construct a Venn Diagram of the 4 disciplines and have them reflect and record the skills and knowledge they construct or discover as they go. It could look like the example below.

E Pic 6


In this example, students have used their physics understanding of energy transfer and trajectory for science for a challenge to design and create a Ping Pong Launcher. The technology skill using the ‘bounce and stretch factor’ of the rubber bands, understood as part of ‘chemical engineering’, has been combined with the power of the triangle as a strong structural shape for loading (mechanical engineering). The intersection of the two disciplines is the product of the process; this could be described as their ‘engineering reflection.’ Students could upload photos and video into this area that demonstrates these ideas. If you’d like a copy of our STEAM Engineering Reflection Template, click here.. (This Google Drawing file requires a Google account to access. Click here for a PDF version.)

We often show teachers in our workshops how it can be important for them to plan the engineering skills that students could need for any STEAM project. For the challenge that involves a Makey Makey below ( creating an electronic instrument), students would need the ‘electrical’ engineering skills of a basic circuit – what would make a circuit breaker or switch and how to use the practical tools such as a wire stripper. When a teacher is planning this lesson they could simply include this information and make sure the students have the equipment and resources needed to succeed.

E Pic 7

So those are some things to consider when teachers are attempting to make explicit the engineering discipline in our STEAM activities. If you’d like to go deeper into some of our other learning frameworks that make STEAM projects practical and achievable for all teachers in your school, contact us for information about the nearest upcoming STEAM #1 or #2 workshops. Or better yet, ask for more information here about our STEAM Ready Program and really get your school up to speed for some STEAM action.

Related Post

The right ways to enable AI at work – Tips for IT Lead

In today’s fast-paced workplace, maximizing efficiency while minimizing time spent on repetitive tasks is crucial. However, many staff members may feel unsure about integrating AI effectively, leading to missed productivity opportunities. As the IT lead, you can guide your team in harnessing AI’s power to streamline operations and save time. By providing clear guidance and


Apple for Business: from Survive to Thrive series

Unveiling Apple’s Hidden AI: The Power of On-Device Machine Learning In an era dominated by data, information, and images, the ability to efficiently navigate through vast digital libraries is paramount. Apple, known for its innovation in both hardware and software, has quietly introduced a game-changing feature in its Photos app, harnessing the prowess of artificial


How well do you use the
Apple Apps Google Workspace Microsoft 365
tools in your workplace?

Find out if you’re working with the tools OR if you’ve got the
tools working for you.

What Industry Are You In?

Using Apple Apps, Google Workspace or Microsoft 365?

What Type of user are you?

🫣 Entry User | 🤹 Skilled User | 👑 Elite User

Take the quiz to find out. 

Privacy Policy

Using Technology Better Privacy Commitment


We hold the privacy of your personal information in the highest regard.

Using Technology Better regards customer privacy as an important part of our relationship with our customers. The following privacy policy applies to all Using Technology Better users, and conforms to Internet privacy standards.

This policy will be continuously assessed against new technologies, business practices and our customers’ needs.

If you have questions or concerns regarding this statement, you should first contact the support team on our Contact Us Page.

Collection of Information

In order to use the Using Technology Better website, we may require information from you in order to provide the best service possible.

All correspondence may also be collected and stored, particularly in regard to sales, support and accounts, including Email.

Any information collected by Using Technology Better is collected via correspondence from you or your company. This may be via the telephone, Email, mail, fax or directly through our website.

Visitors and customers of japan.usingtechnologybetter.com will have their information shared back to DAIWABO INFORMATION SYSTEM CO., LTD. and DIS Service & Solution Co., Ltd.

Use of Collection Information

Any details collected from Using Technology Better customers is required in order to provide you with our

products and/or services, and a high level of customer service.

Correspondence is recorded in order to provide service references, and to assist in our staff development.

Web Site Use Information

Similar to other commercial Web sites, our Web sites utilize a standard technology called “cookies” (see explanation below, “What Are Cookies?”) and web server log files to collect information about how our Web site is used.

Information gathered through cookies and Web server logs may include the date and time of visits, the pages viewed, time spent at our Web site, and the Web sites visited just before and just after our Web site.

Storage of Collected Information

The security of your personal information is important to us. When you enter sensitive information (such as credit card numbers) on our website, we encrypt that information using secure socket layer technology (SSL).

When Credit Card details are collected, we simply pass them on in order to be processed as required. We never permanently store complete Credit Card details.

We follow generally accepted industry standards to protect the personal information submitted to us, both during transmission and once we receive it.

If you have any questions about security on our Website, you can email us at <ContactEmail>.

Access to Collected Information

If your personally identifiable information changes, or if you no longer desire our service, you may correct, update, delete or deactivate it by emailing us at <ContactEmail>.


If you purchase a product or service from us, we may request certain personally identifiable information from you.

You may be required to provide contact information such as:



Postal address

Your school or organisation

Financial information (such as credit card number, expiration date, name on card, card billing address).

We use this information for billing purposes and to fill your orders. If we have trouble processing an order, we will use this information to contact you.


Using Technology Better uses personally identifiable information for essential communications, such as


Accounts information

Critical service details.

We may also use this information for other purposes, including some promotional Emails.

If at any time a customer wishes not to receive such correspondence, they can request to be removed from any mailing lists by contacting support.

You will be notified when your personal information is collected by any third party that is not our agent/service provider, so you can make an informed choice as to whether or not to share your information with that party.

Third Parties

Using Technology Better may at its discretion use other third parties to provide essential services on our site or for our business processes.

We may share your details as necessary for the third party to provide that service.

These third parties are prohibited from using your personally identifiable information for any other purpose.

Using Technology Better does not share any information with third parties for any unknown or unrelated uses.

What Are Cookies?

A cookie is a very small text document, which often includes an anonymous unique identifier. When you visit a Web site, that site’s computer asks your computer for permission to store this file in a part of your hard drive specifically designated for cookies.

Each Web site can send its own cookie to your browser if your browser’s preferences allow it, but (to protect your privacy) your browser only permits a Web site to access the cookies it has already sent to you, not the cookies sent to you by other sites.

Browsers are usually set to accept cookies. However, if you would prefer not to receive cookies, you may alter the configuration of your browser to refuse cookies.

If you choose to have your browser refuse cookies, it is possible that some areas of our site will not function as effectively when viewed by the users.

A cookie cannot retrieve any other data from your hard drive or pass on computer viruses.

How Do We Use Information We Collect from Cookies?

As you visit and browse our Web site, the site uses cookies to differentiate you from other users. In some cases, we also use cookies to prevent you from having to log in more than is necessary for security.

Cookies, in conjunction with our Web server’s log files, allow us to calculate the aggregate number of people visiting our Web site and which parts of the site are most popular. This helps us gather feedback to constantly improve our Web site and better serve our clients.

Cookies do not allow us to gather any personal information about you and we do not intentionally store any personal information that your browser provided to us in your cookies.


We reserve the right to disclose your personally identifiable information as required by law and when we believe that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights and/or comply with a judicial proceeding, court order, or legal process served on our Website.


Links on the Using Technology Better site to external entities are not covered within this policy. The terms and conditions set out in this privacy statement only cover the domain name of usingtechnologybetter.com

Changes to Privacy Policy

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes to this privacy statement, and other places we deem appropriate so that you are aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it.

We reserve the right to modify this privacy statement at any time, so please review it periodically. If we make material changes to this policy, we will not use the personal information you have submitted to us under this Privacy Policy in a manner that is materially inconsistent with this Privacy Policy, without your prior consent

Delivery Policy

Most goods are digitally delivered instantly via email.  Our services may be delivered either via an online medium or live in person.

For our online delivery see below.  For services delivered live onsite, please refer to our speaker agreement form which is emailed to you on confirmation of booking.

Refund Policy

We do not offer refunds or returns unless we cannot supply goods or services or the goods or services are not delivered as promised.

Australian law is the governing body for all work, goods and services supplied by Using Technology Better.

Marketing Release

Using Technology Better (UTB) may film, record, and photograph me (the results of which are the “Recordings”). UTB may also incorporate into any production(s) any separate content (e.g., quotes, testimonials, biographical information, profiles, photos, videos, sound recordings, artwork, etc.) I provide to UTB or approve in writing (“Materials”).


I grant to UTB an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license to, in its sole discretion, (i) edit, translate, and modify the Recordings and the Materials, (ii) attribute the Recordings and Materials to me by my name, age, and city and state of residence, (iii) incorporate the Recordings and the Materials into content to promote UTB, its programs, or products (“Content”), and (iv) publicly use, distribute, reproduce, create derivative works from, and perform/display the Content, and any excerpts thereof, in any language.

2. No Compensation.

I grant this permission without any financial or other obligation of any nature.


For any issues or concerns please contact us