All aboard with STEAM Co.

We speak to STEAM Co. co-founder Nick Corston about how he started the social enterprise, and what education can do to embrace creativity

How did you come up with the idea for STEAM Co.? 

It all started with listening to the Ken Robinson TED Talk [on education killing creativity], and going to Camp Bestival and figuring out how to do that in our kids’ school. STEAM Co. days are mini festivals for kids in school – for our kids – and also for those kids who would otherwise never go to a festival. 

Why is it important to combine the arts with STEM subjects?

There are two versions of this. One, because art connects, and then there’s the fact that technology, creativity and people inspire children, innovate business, and connect communities. At STEAM Co. it’s all about bringing communities together. 

What was your own education journey like? 

I’ve never been asked that before. I didn’t really enjoy it. I would say it was like a conveyer belt. And I’ve never thought of it before, but it really was. I went to grammar school, did the 11 plus, had about five minutes in the careers office and had no idea what to do, so I applied for an engineering degree. I’d done a bit of electronics, but it’s only when you get to university that you realise what the range [of subjects] is like. Sometimes when you get to university, you’ve never had any careers advice, and if your parents don’t know they can’t educate or advise. 

Did you have a favourite subject at school?

Design and technology. I liked creating and making things. And my grammar school had the first-ever Commodore PET computer. It was delivered in a big box, we figured out how to use it, and I won a computer gaming competition, where the printout [of the code] went around the bedroom three times, and then eventually got bored of that and moved on. If I’d still been in school when the Commodore 64 was engaging the next generation of gaming entrepreneurs, I might be somewhere different now! 

If you could have any other job than the one you have now, what would you choose?

I think I’d like Jony Ive’s job, actually. The way he’s combined STEAM skills – technology, art, maths – to help build the world’s most profitable company [Apple] is incredible. He did industrial design, and I ended up doing electronic engineering and marketing because I didn’t have the confidence to step off that conveyer belt. But I remember being at university and seeing a Royal College of Art poster for a course called industrial design, and I’d never heard of that before; I’d been at university for five years. I didn’t have the confidence to apply, but that would have taken me to the Royal College of Art where Jony Ive was, and that was a course that combined art and creativity with engineering. Now, Imperial College and the Royal College of Art stand side-by-side in London, and they do offer courses that bridge that gap. 

For more information on STEAM Co., head to steamco.org.uk

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