mentorSTEM? What’s The Difference? (Part 1)

 “What it is about mentorSTEM that makes it different from all the other mentor programs?”

People ask me this all the time.  Because before a potential mentor or a high school student or a corporate sponsor agrees to participate in our program, they want to know that their valuable time and resources are going to get results.  Hey, there’s a a couple of hundred mentor programs out there and people have choices, right?

Well, there are 3 things that make mentorSTEM unique:

  1. Project Based Learning
  2. Group Mentoring
  3. Building a Pipeline for the Future

I’m going to tell you about the first of these differences today.  Project Based Learning.

A core idea of mentorSTEM is that real-world problems capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking.  When we arrange meetings between mentors and proteges, we want to get the best outcomes from the precious time they have together.  To do this we utilize Project Based Learning (PBL) principles.  PBL challenges students with complex tasks through “mini-projects” that involve the students’ problem solving, decision making, investigative skills and, most importantly, effective communications.

At mentorSTEM our Project Based Learning workshops are generally completed by groups of students working together towards a common goal. Each project begins with the vision of an end product or presentation which requires learning specific knowledge and concepts. And,  at mentorSTEM, just like in the real world, the process is competitive.

It could be conducting a chemistry experiment or building a model airplane. Like the time we visited the air traffic control tower during a visit to Ronald Reagan National Airport.   Here our proteges participated in a STEM Activity, called “Building an Airplane”.  Working on a project team to build a model airplane, the concepts behind the activity included Time Management, Effective Communication, Resource Utilization and Achieving Results.

One of mentorSTEM’s most successful Project Based Learning workshops is titled “Building Blocks in STEM Careers.”   We last conducted this one during Black History Month.   With guidance from mentor Lisa Anders (who is the lead engineer for the MLK Memorial) the students competed on project teams with a goal of designing a unique memorial for their community.  In this project the students learned the way professionals with different roles and responsibilities (Engineering, Finance, Project Management, Marketing) work together to achieve a common goal. Performance was assessed on team basis, taking into account the quality of the product produced, the timeliness and process followed, and the final presentation.

At mentorSTEM our goal is to lead students to construct something new – an idea, an interpretation, a new way of displaying what they have learned.  Our technique requires critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and various forms of communication.  These are the kind of skills that prepare students for skills required in the workplace.

The mentorSTEM Project Based Learning framework is…

  • hands on,
  • collaborative,
  • creative, and
  • communications rich
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