West Virginia Public Broadcasting Shows How STEAM Powers Careers

December 2015

For every eighth-grader who ever looked at his or her schoolwork and asked, “When am I ever going to need to use this?” West Virginia Public Broadcasting has a series of video answers:

  • A pipefitter uses the Pythagorean Theorem to figure out how long to cut a length of pipe.
  • An artist explains how chemistry drives the processes used to cast iron artwork.
  • A nurse shows how genetic research informs the process of taking family histories, leading to better medical decisions.

WVPB’s West Virginia STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math), is an interactive web video series designed to illuminate the path for students from school to career. Created in collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Education, STEAM features West Virginians in five different fields, including forensic science and nanotechnology, explaining what they do and how they use what they learned in math, science, engineering, technology, and art courses in their careers.

"When we showed these videos to a group of low-income eighth graders, one of them raised his hand and blurted out, 'I want to be a pipefitter!' Five minutes before, he had no idea what a pipefitter was," said Scott Finn, executive director and CEO of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. "These WV STEAM videos introduce students to new career options, and they make the vital connection between what they’re learning in school and what they need to know in their careers."

STEAM adds art to the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) as professionals in those fields emphasize the importance of creativity and interdisciplinary thinking.  The five short videos feature practitioners presenting real-world problems, and some have an interactive component in which viewers use their academic knowledge to find a solution.  

The video interactives grew from a WVPB radio series called Inspiring West Virginians that profiles  exceptional leaders in science and business explaining their professions and describing how their West Virginia upbringing has influenced them.  

West Virginia STEAM launched in 2014 on YouTube and won a 2015 national instructional media award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association. The series is now part of PBS LearningMedia, which also features five other Inspiring West Virginians documentaries.