STEM Tuesday’s New Year’s Celebration 2021

STEM Tuesday’s New Year’s Celebration 2021

2021 is in the books. It was a strange kind of year. I heard it described best a few weeks back when my wife, who is a first-grade teacher, came home on a Friday night and said that the week in her classroom had been the slowest fast week in recent history. She said looking back, the previous weekend seemed like it just happened but the day-to-day timeline at school seemed to drag on and on and on. I get that. 


That’s 2021 to the core. 

It seems like the STEM Tuesday team was just posting the 2020 year-end celebration posts, yet the month-to-month, week-to-week, day-to-day progression of 2021 seemed like crossing an ocean pedaling a paddleboat.

There were great things in the STEM world throughout 2021. Vaccines and their logistical rollout, fantastical feats on Mars, the James Webb telescope (fingers crossed for continued success!), giant leaps in making routine space travel a thing, and the advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence were noteworthy, if not a little scary.

All in all, 2021 was a good STEM year. 

I look for STEM 2022 to be just as awesome.

STEM Tuesday Theme for 2022

Start by knowing nothing and then ask the right questions.

I’m one of the luckiest people alive. I know this and appreciate it every day. One of the things I’m most grateful for is getting to see my grandkids almost every day. The past year has been particularly awesome as my oldest grandson turned three years old. We hang out a lot which means I get to experience the world in a whole new light through his fresh eyes. 

He’s noticing the world around him more and more. Shining a flashlight under a leaf while playing outside in the dark, gathering and counting cicada molts from the front porch, planting marigolds and vegetables in the garden, eating raspberries off the bush, and figuring out what projectiles can be successfully launched from grandma’s leaf blower. He’s also blessed with a curious mind so we get a lot of questions. 

Wonder and curiosity make a magical combination. I’ve been reminded of this throughout 2021. I think the magic of wonder and curiosity might be the number one thing the human race has lost as we wade into the digital age.

Wonder and curiosity. 

Gifts from the gods.

That’s where our 2022 STEM Tuesday theme is rooted. Wonder and curiosity. Start by knowing nothing and then ask the right questions.

Museum of Trinity College Dublin, Illustration in History of the University of Dublin (1819), William B. Sarsfield Taylor, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Knowing nothing

In elementary school, they grouped our class into three divisions by levels. Group 1, 2, and 3. Although it was never outrightly expressed, every one of us knew these divisions were grouped according to level. I, for better or worse, was placed in Group 1. It was probably a coin flip of whether to put me into this group over the second group. I struggled to read. I was a left-hander in a right-handed world of parochial school. I was, without a doubt, the dumbest kid in the smart group. Right or wrong, the system was what it was in the 1970s.  The system and closed classroom environment had their consequences but at that moment, being the dumbest kid in the smart class did one thing to me. It made me feel dumb.

I had to scramble to keep up. While my classmates appeared to be leisurely strolling through the lush academic park, I was sprinting blindfolded through a dense academic forest constantly running headfirst into tree trunks. I don’t really know if this was a reality or just a version of reality that existed inside my head. It doesn’t matter because it permanently imprinted on my psyche even to this day. The default inside my head always starts with, “You know nothing, idiot.”

What may seem a curse (and at times, i.e. report card time, it was) being a default idiot inside my own head has turned into a blessing. First of all, I don’t like being an idiot. I didn’t like being the dumbest in the smart group. Not wanting to be an idiot, though, I had one choice, be curious and then do the work to satisfy that curiosity. 

So I learned to ask the right questions but, being an introvert, I mostly asked them inside my own head.

All the Right Questions

  • Are we there yet?
  • Is dinner ready?
  • Where’s the restroom?

No, just kidding. Although these questions are vital in my own mind, they aren’t really the three important Right Questions. Those are:

  • Why?
  • How?
  • What if?

Three good questions. Three questions that, as we start a new year, can help define the future us. We can use the Right Question to tell the story we want to tell. We can use the Right Questions to define the story of who we are and what we want to be. 

Tell the story

Being a scientist (molecular microbiologist) by trade, we incorporate the Right Questions all the time.

  • We make an observation and ask why it happened.
  • We attempt to define how it happened.
  • We investigate what happens to the observation if a variable in the original observation was changed. 

Science moves forward when we start by knowing nothing and then asking the right questions. Why? How? What if? The stories we want to tell also start in the same place with the same questions. They form the foundation of the story, give it color and life, and then point the way to what happens next.

One final thought. Recently, as the holidays approached, my grandson awarded everyone in the family a revered spot on The Nice List. I don’t know if this was because he was struck with holiday spirit or if he was normalizing his sometimes onerous behavior to keep himself permanently established within the parameters of The Nice List. Either way, I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such a prestigious and rewarding company. 

He would like to extend an invitation to each one of you to hop aboard The Nice List. It’s a pretty cool place to be.

But, like all things worth having, The Nice List is a responsibility that requires work and effort.

Accept the challenge and do everything you can to live up to the honor.

Happy New Year! The STEM Tuesday team and the entire From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors family wish you and yours the very best in 2022. We appreciate your support more than you can ever imagine.

Have a safe and productive 2022!

Start by knowing nothing and then ask the right questions.

Illustration from Scenes of wonder and curiosity in California by James Mason Hutchings, 1870.



Mike Hays on Facebook
Mike Hays
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports related topics at and writer stuff at He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.