• March 31, 2016
  • Your Letters

Art in STEM

I read your article in the November/December 2015 edition of InTech entitled “STEM or STEAM” and have to disagree with the article’s premise for two reasons. First, da Vinci absolutely “saw science and art as complementary rather than distinct disciplines,” so why add the letter “A” to “STEM” to purposely make them distinct? I could make the same argument about history, or language, or social sciences, or other disciplines. In addition, we already teach “art” as part of STEM. Da Vinci used pen and paper to illustrate his vision; today we use computer-aided design and computer graphics and digital modeling. Like da Vinci, we observe and note and think and ponder as part of our STEM curricula. STEM was created to focus on four disciplines, because our students were being left behind in those areas and not able to compete globally with those countries that have long had STEM-concentrated curricula. I do not believe further dilution of a STEM-based education is necessary or advisable.

Secondly, after reading dozens of articles, opinions, and books on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that a majority of those who are pushing this idea are most interested in increased government funding for the arts, and by changing STEM to STEAM, they have found a vehicle to use as an argument for increased funding.

Arts, humanities, and social sciences all have a place in everyone’s education, but not at par with the four STEM disciplines for our next generation of technology-based students.

Scott Sommer, PE, CAP

Editor’s response

I think adding art in a balanced way to our thinking about education is worthwhile for a number of reasons. The education system got out of focus for a wide range of reasons, not the least that large numbers of high school graduates are not proficient at basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. I can make the argument that we should just talk about “SM,” since science and mathematics are the basis for engineering and technology. However, I believe that is too narrow of a view. Certainly this all needs to be done in a reasonable, holistic way. People need to have an adult conversation about the use of resources, goals, and objectives. More importantly, we need to figure out how to fix the education system and make it work again.


I enjoy your editorials, and in particular my attention was drawn to [“STEM or STEAM”]. The STEAM education initiative has been around in Minnesota for years, and the idea of interdisciplinary transfer of ideas and innovation across disciplines, cultures, and interests has been my own life’s passion for years. Interestingly enough, during the course of my discussions, this trait seems to be quite common in the psychographic profile of many ISA members. One reason they enjoy their jobs is because they incorporate so much variety, be it industry to industry (e.g., P&P, mining, food, oil and gas), discipline to discipline (e.g., chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, computer, and electronic engineering or IIoT innovation), or culture to culture. Just thought I would add my two cents to say that I think many of our members are already “following” the Leonardo da Vinci path.

Let me add some other information regarding the article on getting women into STEM education [January/February 2016 InTech]. As Melissa Gates stated some time ago and I have seen reinforced several times since, middle school is the time when children are perhaps the most open and accepting of everything. “Absorbent little knowledge sponges” is a term I have often heard! Well, there is a national/international competition called Future City Competition that specifically targets this age group (grades 6–8). The Twin Cities section of ISA has been offering an award to the Minnesota competition participants (“Best use of automation”) for a number of years. We even put together a video to help promote the idea with schools. My experience judging this competition was amazing, because there was pretty much an equal number of boys and girls. There was even a team from a hair dressing junior school comprised of all girls!

Peter Baker, CAP, CTech

Loop calibration

Firstly I wish to compliment you on a really well-structured, informative article on loop calibration [September/October 2015 InTech]. I am asking a genuine question here, not attempting to pick holes in your procedure.

You mention that even a small error in a custody transfer loop can result in significant error. True. If one is to make use of the “loop calibration” system, how does this “fit” with the legal requirements for “instrument” calibration?

I am sure that you know full well that an error in the transmitter, can be “disguised” in the AD or DA conversion of that signal, possibly even in the SCADA system itself. How then does one produce a calibration certificate to the end users (custody transfer) that will satisfy not only them, but the legal aspect as well? This question, I know will be asked at my next Advanced Instrumentation and Process Control course, where I have an extensive chapter on calibration, including loop calibration.

Charles Palmer

Author’s response

Opinions vary widely on custody transfer issues when it comes to calibration. The simple answer is a loop test certificate would cover the input at the source (DP flow measurement) and end with the SCADA display as the output. If the display is accurate to what is sourced at the input, then it does not matter what offsets there are at AD, DA, and in SCADA. However, it would be good to know how all loop components are performing and learn where drift is occurring. After analysis of historical calibrations (required for legal reasons anyway), you could employ a strategy of when adjustments should be made and how tight an “As Left” test should be for optimum testing efficiency versus measurement performance. Ultimately you would have confidence in the loop testing approach.

Ned Espy

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