Join us at Africa’s first STEAM Symposium

What correlation could there possibly be between art and the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths)? More than you can imagine. Join global engineering and infrastructure advisory firm Aurecon at the inaugural STEAM Symposium to find out more. The symposium is part of the Open Design Cape Town festival and will explore why putting the ‘A’ in STEM – by incorporating art and design into the traditional subjects – has become so critical.

STEAM is much more than merely another acronym that rolls off the tongue easily; it is a global movement that aims to incorporate the creativity and vision of art and design thinking into traditional STEM subjects. Why? Because the future hinges on the ability of people to innovate and create – and for that, one will need a chameleon-like ability to change and adapt.

World Design Organisation president, industrial designer and researcher, Professor Mugendi K. M’Rithaa, concurs. “By incorporating art into science, technology, engineering and maths – the traditional STEM subjects – you’re equipping learners with a wide range of skills which, in turn, unlocks a variety of professional disciplines. Youngsters also learn that acquiring knowledge is about collaboration and is a lifelong process,” he says.

In partnership with a broad range of stakeholders including Open Design Cape Town; Aurecon’s Director of Innovation and Transformation, Abbas Jamie, together with Professor Mugendi have been driving a design thinking agenda across Africa. Known as ‘Afrikan Design Innovation’ (ADI), this approach illustrates the value of using design thinking to create sustainable solutions to our continent’s complex problems.

ADI acknowledges that the continent’s people and entrepreneurial promise are like none other globally; and it places them at the centre of the design process in order to create innovative solutions. The use of ‘Afrika’ with a ‘k’ is intentional – it expresses Afrika as seen from the ‘inside out’, as opposed to Africa as traditionally viewed from the outside in.

“It’s just one illustration of the logical merger of creativity and design thinking with STEM. ADI is not only a catalyst for innovation but an imperative if we’re to leapfrog the development process in Afrika to create sustainable, future-ready cities,” says Abbas.

Full STEAM ahead

Abbas and Mugendi will be joined at the STEAM Symposium, by other global thought leaders on this topic, such as Kristóf Fenyvesi, a STEAM researcher at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland; Richard Perez, the founding director of the UCT School of Design Thinking; and Marco Rosa, managing director at specialist design consultancy, Formula D.

Championed by the Rhode Island School of Design in the US, STEAM is gaining global traction and it is hoped that it will also gain in popularity across Africa. STEAM has three broad pillars. First, to transform research policy to place art and design at the centre of STEM learning. Second, to encourage the integration of art and design thinking into education across all learning areas, from kindergarten to graduate degree level. Third, to influence employers to hire artists and designers to drive innovation and add significance and meaning to their businesses.

“From a young age, we are told that we are either artistic and creative or technical and analytical. If you want to see real out-of-the box thinking or ground-breaking innovation, you need these worlds to collide in a melting pot of creativity. We need to unlock the true potential of people by allowing them to explore beyond traditional paradigms,” says Abbas.

Designer and academic, Vikki du Preez supports this view: “Much of our world is enabled or supported by technology – underpinned by maths, science and engineering – but the experience is a human one. Creative problem solving and learning to view the world as a connected system are key elements within art and design.

Vikki, a lecturer at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, believes that acknowledging and exploring the interplay between science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the creative disciplines can help foster innovation.

The case for integrating creativity across all disciplines has been proven time and again. In an essay published in 2012, newswriter Steven Ross Pomeroy noted that, “Nobel laureates in the sciences are seventeen times likelier than the average scientist to be a painter, twelve times as likely to be a poet, and four times as likely to be a musician.”

Don’t miss out on our other events
Aurecon will host various activities as part of the festival, including:

  • An open day at its Cape Town office – the perfect networking opportunity and a chance to tour the company’s 5-Star Green Star SA Office v1 design rated building and participate in a design thinking workshop
  • An exhibition of ‘Afrikanist in Motion’, a collaboration between Aurecon and photographer, Yasser Booley. Rooted in design thinking, Afrikanist in Motion offers a glimpse into the day-to-day lives of public transport commuters, with a view to informing relevant transport solutions tailored to the Afrikan context
  • Two design thinking masterclasses at City Hall.


Times and Dates
Tickets for the Open Design International STEAM Symposium on 14 August are on sale via at a cost of R1055 per ticket. The symposium will be held at Cape Town City Hall’s main auditorium on Darling Street between 10am and 4pm.

For more information and to view the speaker line-up visit Use the hashtag #ODCT2017 to help spread the word.

Contact Jody Boshoff, Aurecon,

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Source: EE plublishers

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