Shelley Latham Outreach Coordinator

Link to Mentoring Opportunities and Make a Difference

PostedWednesday, January 10, 2018 at 4:13 AM

Link to Mentoring Opportunities and Make a Difference

Engineering is a bit of a mystery to many people, and PK-12 educators are no exception. Mentors, whether engineering educators or engineering professionals, can provide short-cuts to get classroom teachers up-to-speed and comfortable approaching engineering concepts and curriculum with their students. In addition to finding mentor/partners to help present engineering challenges to students, PK-12 educators can participate in professional development workshops and seminars that often include follow-up mentoring.

January is National Mentoring Month and we decided to see what opportunities were out there for engineering professionals, educators, and students to mentor or be mentored. The good news is that there are lots of organizations and individuals who want to engage with and support PK-12 teachers in providing meaningful engineering experiences for their students.

Why Mentoring?

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide." Mentors can be of different or same ages, but they all have more experience and are willing to share their wisdom with those that are newer to the task. Mentoring can happen in person, over the phone, online, or a combination. And, as is often the case in PK-12 engineering education, mentoring can include  hands-on, active learning. However the mentoring relationship happens, evidence suggests that it is a powerful tool for improving results for teachers and students alike. New educators who are paired with a mentor have significantly higher retention rates, and students that work with near-peer or adult mentors have better outcomes in all areas of their lives, both in and out of the classroom. This is especially true for students in underserved communities and girls, who have fewer professional role models in STEM fields.

Speaking to the importance of mentoring girls in STEM, Blair Blackwell, the manager for education and corporate programs at Chevron had this to say in an article from the74million.orgEarly evidence suggests that mentoring moments work. We just need to ensure that they happen consistently and continuously. It is a lifelong journey. We must inspire girls and women, guide them and build their self-confidence throughout their academic and professional lives – from childhood and adolescence well into adulthood. Their success depends on it, as does all of ours. (Chevron is the principal funder of LinkEngineering)

Connect through College and Graduate Institutions

Many college and university engineering departments have outreach programs for PK-12 educators. Often, graduate and under-graduate students in engineering fields will work with PK-12 teachers and students to implement engineering lessons. Tufts has been running STOMP (Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program) for the past 8 years and has reached over 4,000 students in the Somerville/Boston metro area since its launch in 2001. The University of Cincinnati created CEEMS (Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Math and Science Partnership) with an NSF grant to bring science and engineering educators, professionals and k-12 teachers together to develop engineering curriculum. The College of Engineering at Michigan State University, the Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering at the University of Washington and many other universities host Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) programs, which are sponsored by NSF to support collaborations across PK-12 and higher education. Teachers can apply to an RET site for a 6-week summer research experience with engineering or computer science faculty and are also supported to translate that experience and their new engineering knowledge into classroom curricula and lessons. During the school year, graduate and undergraduate students from the RET site partner with teachers in the classroom to help implement the activities.

To find similar programs near you, visit the engineering department websites of local colleges and universities and see what programs they offer. Helpful search terms are: "K-12 outreach", "Math-Science partnerships", "Mentor". If they don’t have anything listed, contact them about faculty or students getting involved with your school.

Engineering Professionals Get Involved

There is an effort to improve STEM outcomes and diversity in STEM fields by getting passionate, successful engineers involved in pre-college education. National non-profit US2020’s mission is "to change the trajectory of STEM education in America by dramatically increasing the number of STEM professionals engaged in high-quality STEM mentoring with youth". You can volunteer to mentor or you can post a request for mentors on their website. Citizen Schools is a program that connects professionals with student apprentices, giving kids a chance to experience different careers. For women in STEM fields with a desire to mentor girls and young women, Million Women Mentors provides a national network of mentoring opportunities.

TryEngineering Together partners with corporations to match company employee volunteers with students in 3rd to 5th grade, particularly those in economically disadvantaged communities, in 1:1 “eMentoring” relationships to create STEM learning experiences. The ACE Mentor Program (Architecture, Construction, Engineering) is a national mentoring program to connect building professionals with high school students. 

Professional engineering associations often have volunteer opportunities for their members and many have specific PK-12 outreach programs. The National Society of Professional Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers all have programs in place. If you are a professional engineer, check with your member organization to see how you can support teachers and students in your area.  

Teachers Mentor Teachers

Some PK-12 teacher organizations offer peer support and mentoring opportunities. The ITEEA (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association) has a program that matches mentors and mentees.  The NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) has just launched an Engineering listserv for members looking for support and guidance in their engineering efforts. The ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) has significant k-12 outreach resources and events available at the eGFI website. In addition, ASEE members can join the PreCollege Division  to meet and learn from professional engineers.

Mentoring for Students makes a detailed case for the importance and effectiveness of mentoring in young people’s lives. Their site has research, information and resources for those wanting to mentor or be mentored. Mentornet is a searchable database for professionals who would like to support college students through their education and early careers and those looking for mentors.  The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) aims to connect STEM resources and organizations who serve girls. The NGCP has a slate of events to encourage mentoring during the month of January. connects students in underserved communities to near-age mentors who can make opportunities in STEM more approachable.  In addition, many young people are able to work with mentors through organizations like the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4H, and Boy & Girls Clubs, which have done an excellent job of exposing kids to STEM activities.

Connect and Share on LinkEngineering

It is fitting that National Mentoring Month falls in January, the start of a new year. As we think about our goals for the future and how we can improve our skills or make a difference in someone’s life, mentoring can lead us forward. We should all challenge ourselves to connect to those who can help us and those who could benefit from our counsel and guidance. And if you have had any powerful mentoring experiences, let us know by sharing them here on LinkEngineering.

photo: Student and mentor from Penn State via Flickr with Creative Commons license

Filed Under Girls in Engineering Low-Resourced Classroom/School Minorities in engineering
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