Thank you to GGSTEM contributor Jill Tietjen, who contacted Temple Grandin about writing for GGSTEM. Photo credit: Rosalie Winard
Science Needs Different Kinds of Minds
by Temple Grandin
Today I am a professor of animal science at Colorado State University. When I was in high school, I was constantly teased and bullied. The only refuge I had away from teasing was electronics lab, model rockets, and horseback riding. My science teacher was instrumental in motivating me to study so I could achieve my goal of becoming a scientist. In his lab, he had lots of interesting projects. One of my favorites was gluing bits of mirror to a rubber membrane stretched over a large audio speaker. A lamp was used to reflect light from the mirrors into the ceiling. When the music played, spots of light jiggled in time with the music.
I had lots of trouble with math and with lots of tutoring, I got B’s in finite math and a C in statistics. Algebra was impossible. I am concerned that all the emphasis on STEM will keep people like me out of science. Science needs people like me who have advanced visualization skills to work with the mathematicians. I discuss this in my 2010 TED talk. Visual thinkers who may be poor at math are needed. I will give you an example. When the Fukashima Nuclear Plants melted down, I was shocked to learn that a visualization error had been made in the design. The mathematicians and engineers did not see it. If they had installed watertight doors, they would have protected all the emergency equipment that was located in the basement. This is a mistake I would never make because I could visualize water filling the basement. Science really does need all kinds of minds. My book, The Autistic Brain, has further descriptions of different types of thinking. The different kids of minds compliment each other’s skills.