• What is STEAM?

    STEAM is an interdisciplinary approach that bridges STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) disciplines with the arts, humanities and social sciences in meaningful ways. It is rooted in the conviction that the challenging questions of the 21st century can only be answered through the integrated efforts of all disciplines working together. STEAM embraces and explores the idea that interdisciplinary critical thinking inspires innovative solutions. 

  • What is the STEAM Challenge?

    The Wayne State University School of Social Work and Mike Ilitch School of Business are proud to host the third annual STEAM Challenge, which brings interdisciplinary student teams together to address a social problem in our city. There are four priority areas under this year's theme of Innovating Change and Developing Solutions Towards a Just Society:

    • Promoting youth development and educational opportunities.

    • Improving employment opportunities for returning citizens and/or hard to employ populations.

    • Enhancing financial literacy and other capabilities and capacity in an effort to reduce economic inequalities.

    • Advancing and monitoring environmental justice initiatives (i.e. clean water/air) in impoverished communities.

    The competition will include a comprehensive business development services, coaching, and mentoring support that leverages the time and talents of individuals and organizations that make up Detroit's growing social entrepreneurship ecosystem.

  • What kind of ideas can fall under this theme?

    Increasingly, students express wanting to start an enterprise with a social justice purpose and the STEAM Challenge will help our Wayne State Warriors accomplish this. Students will be guided through the competition by STEAM Challenge Champions and taught how to utilize business and entrepreneurship principles to solve pressing social challenges facing area Detroiters. The idea can be a product, service, technology component, an app, or other venture that will help empower social change in Detroit.

    Under this year's theme of 'Innovating Change and Developing Solutions towards a Just Society' there are four priority areas:  

    • Promoting youth development and educational opportunities 
    • Creating employment opportunities and developing workforce solutions for individuals and groups who face barriers to finding and maintaining employment
    • Enhancing financial literacy, capabilities and inclusion for low-to-moderate income individuals and households
    • Advancing and monitoring environmental justice initiatives (i.e. clean water/air) in under-resourced communities  

    Detailed description of STEAM priority areas (PDF)

  • Who can participate? Do I have to have a team or an idea right away?

    This competition is open to students from any discipline. Teams will consist of three to seven undergraduate and/or graduate students. Most importantly, each team must include representatives from at least three different disciplines (e.g. business, graphic design, engineering). The idea can be a product, service, technology component, an app, or other venture that will help empower social change in Detroit! Your only requirement to participate is to come with an idea or have the interest in working on one with others.  

    For those who don't have teams or an idea, our STEAM Challenge project team will help match you up with others who have similar interests and working styles. To help inspire and guide ideas, we will also be hosting a series of events introducing interested students to the local social entrepreneurship ecosystem.

  • Why is the "A" in STEAM important?

    The "A" in STEAM represents the arts, humanities and social sciences. Artists and designers are driving innovation—and innovation needs the arts to truly flourish. Consider companies like Apple that are successful not just because of science, but because they are at the intersection of design and technology. Recently, California College of the Arts faculty members were the first art institution to be represented at the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, demonstrating that artists and designers are key communicators at the crossroads of environmental issues. Even the long running children's television show Sesame Street is jumping into the STEAM movement by integrating the arts into its existing STEM focus with Elmo the Musical. In this production, Elmo uses singing, dancing, imagination and math skills to solve problems. Creativity is often linked to art in research studies and journals. Going beyond the cognitive power of the arts, it is believed that participating in art, music, dance, poetry, etc. may provide more creative outlets for STEM students and serve as a viable recruiting tool for future students into technical fields. Students need both a natural and creative view of the world to compete in the global market of the twenty-first century.

    The humanities and social sciences are also crucial for developing innovative new STEM projects. Both of these disciplines add the necessary social context to understand the way that scientific and technological problems are grounded in culturally-specific aspects of human experience, such as class, gender, ethnicity, race, religion and sexuality. The social sciences, for example, offer perspectives that permit us to understand how the practice of science learning differs in various societies, subgroups, even family units. The humanities allow us to gain insight into the experiences and history of a certain culture and community so that we can better shape how an idea is developed to expressly address the needs of that audience. In the STEAM challenge, as we specifically seek to solve problems within our own Detroit community, this knowledge is invaluable. As much as we empower our students to grow their science literacy, it is equally important that we show the humanities and social sciences can play a vital role in driving technological innovations.

  • Will there be help to guide my team through the process?

    New to this year's STEAM Challenge will be comprehensive business development services, coaching and mentoring support that leverages the time and talents of individuals and organizations that make up Detroit's growing social entrepreneurship ecosystem. We encourage both those looking to learn a bit more about the STEAM Challenge and those committed to the competition, to join us at an upcoming event. Events and workshops will provide participants with information on idea exploration, group formation, business feasibility planning, expertise referrals and linkages to community entrepreneurs across disciples. Students will also be provided with 1:1 business coaching and technical assistance on venture development at the WSU Innovation Studio powered by TechTown. No technology, programming or business planning experience is needed – we will help guide students through the entire process.

    If you have a question please contact us at STEAMchallenge@wayne.edu and we will connect you with the appropriate STEAM Challenge Champion who can assist. 

  • I have an idea but I'm not sure where to get more information on the topic—is there assistance available?

    In addition to the list of general resources on social innovation and STEAM on this site, the STEAM Challenge Team will help connect you with STEAM Challenge Champions, content experts who can assist teams with specific field related questions such as engineering and business management. Contact us at STEAMchallenge@wayne.edu for more information or a referral. 

  • What are the time commitments and deadlines?

    We recognize that students live very active and busy lives, so we put together a schedule that gives you a lot of time to help develop your idea. For a list of optional events to attend visit our Important Dates page. 

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STEAM Challenge