BECOME A MEMBER! Sign up for TIE services now and start your international school career


The Missing Letter in STEM: A(rt)?

By Jude Clapper, Matt Fagen, Rafael Garcia, and Leo Lopez

Today at Taipei American School (TAS), we see the commitment to STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics—everywhere on campus.
We see that commitment in the dance, music, and fine arts that take place in the beautifully designed Liu Lim Arts Center. We also see it thriving in the computer science and robotics department, with its advanced manufacturing facilities and its own course for 3D design, sculpture, and robotic art.
We see it in our mathematics department, where students learn the beauty of logic and the art of problem-solving. And we see it in our scientific research department, where students learn to use genetic engineering techniques to design and build biological machines.
This year, we have extended our scientific research offerings to include research in chemistry. Students in this course have the opportunity to experiment with university-level instrumentation in our research laboratory, and conduct their own research project in order to apply the concepts they learned in class. At the end of the course, students write a scientific research paper and present it at one of the scientific research symposia at the end of each semester. This course is a hands-on experience for students to use the scientific method.
TAS students in the advanced scientific research courses will have the chance to compete in the International Genetically Engineered (iGEM) competition. The iGEM competition was created at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a way to incorporate microbiological research with engineering principles into a field called synthetic biology.
TAS has a partnership with National Yang Ming University (NYMU) to develop our iGEM team. TAS student Rohan Sinha ’15 is a member of the NYMU iGEM team, and presented to the university president in October. He also participated in the Asia regional iGEM competition in Hong Kong, and was the only high school student among participants from 78 teams.
During the competition, Rohan’s team received four of the nine awards including Best New Engineered Bio-Brick, Best Biological Parts Collection, Best Improvement on a Biological Part, and Best Presentation. TAS will compete with their own team in June 2014 at the iGEM competition at MIT with approximately 35 other high schools from around the world.
Students do not have to wait until higher education to explore high level mathematical concepts either; TAS offers advanced topics in mathematics. The course is designed to foster the mathematical talents of our students who have completed honors linear algebra and honors differential equations.
A small class size affords flexibility to curriculum, and we can focus on students’ interests, such as cryptography (code-breaking), chaos theory and more. Students are able to progress at their own pace, which ensures a deeper understanding for each topic. Advanced topics are a good chance for students to push beyond the boundaries of traditional high school mathematics.
The 3D design, sculpture, robotics, and programming course interlaces science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics. Using art to learn about technology is the core objective of this course. For example, in media arts, students use technology to create interactive and expressive objects or environments. They have the opportunity to combine knowledge from many fields of study to create interactive multimedia electronic projects.
Student projects can span a wide range of scope and purpose. Many students choose direct artistic expression, such as light shows, drawing robots, or 3D immersive installation art. This type of art lets an observer become part of a piece; by interacting with sensors in a room, the observer can change the audio and visual landscape. Others choose service-oriented projects, such as electronic assistance for disabled persons to aid in their artistic or athletic activities. Art is an essential part of STEAM, especially in the engineering process.
We are fortunate at TAS to offer not one, but two levels of advanced robotic engineering courses. These classes focus on the three main areas of robotic engineering: computer programing, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. It is likely that a student will specialize in one area or another; however it is important that all students are experienced in all of these areas.
For example, it is important for the mechanical engineer to understand programming, so they know what can be expected of them; likewise, the programming team needs to understand the limitations of the mechanical design.
By being creative, determined, and resourceful, TAS students are taking STEAM to new heights. We see this high standard for education take shape in the scientific research and robotics labs. We find evidence for it every time we step into an advanced mathematics course, or immerse ourselves in interactive art projects.
As a community, we are inspired by our students’ achievements in STEAM and recognize that they are receiving an education that is unmatched by many high schools around the world.

Please fill out the form below if you would like to post a comment on this article:


02/10/2014 - dzweifler
NYCPromise, the MIT Media Lab, and TradingScreen have launched a contest called Dream It. Code It. Win It., for student programmers. The goal of the contest is to increase creativity and art in programming, with the end-result of increasing US competitiveness in STEM fields. Total committed prizes have now reached more than $60,000. To learn more or enter go to
02/06/2014 - maryb