Mentor a Child to Help Shape the Next Generation of STEM Workers

New online program connects technical professionals with students

4 January 2018

If you’re an engineer, technical professional, or STEM enthusiast who wants to make a difference in a child’s life, consider asking your employer to become a sponsor of TryEngineering Together. The online mentorship platform connects high-tech professionals with third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade pupils in underserved areas, to inspire them in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The innovative pilot program offers an easy, flexible way for adults to volunteer their time, make a difference in a child’s life, and help shape the next generation of STEM innovators.

The pilot launched this month in the United States, with a full launch scheduled for September. If the program proves to be successful, it will be introduced in other countries, organizers say.

Because the interaction happens online, volunteers can participate anytime and from anywhere in the world.

Reaching pupils in their early years is essential, according to a news release about the program. Once students reach fourth grade, research shows, a third have lost interest in STEM subjects. By eighth grade, nearly half have lost interest or have deemed STEM fields irrelevant to their future.

“By giving students the opportunity to make a personal connection” with someone who works in a STEM field, the mentoring program “helps reinforce the message that what students are learning in the classroom today will also be of value in the workplaces of tomorrow,” IEEE Fellow S.K. Ramesh, former vice president, IEEE Educational Activities, said in the news release. “This kind of exposure and personal interaction can help plant the seeds that will launch future engineers and technology professionals.”

To create the mentorship platform, IEEE partnered with Cricket Media, a global education company that provides content and a collaborative learning network in more than 200 countries.

HOW IT WORKS

All volunteers undergo a background check. Communication with the pupil is conducted through the mentoring platform and monitored by the child’s teacher.

Mentors start by writing an “All About Me” letter. The children write introductory letters as well.

Each mentor is matched with a pupil. The two connect, virtually, during the school year.

A mentor typically spends 10 to 15 hours per semester corresponding with the pupil, developing a positive relationship that leads to increased scholastic performance and interest in STEM fields as possible career choices, according to Jennifer Fong, senior marketing manager for IEEE Educational Activities, in Piscataway, N.J.

The pupil’s teacher selects specific STEM topics to cover in the classroom as well as hands-on activities. Each pupil chooses an article from a list on the platform. Pupils and mentors read the articles and correspond with each other about them, as well as the hands-on activities. Mentors ask the pupils questions and answer questions the students might have.

“As the demand for diverse STEM workers continues to outpace supply, forward-thinking companies realize that ‘eMentoring’ will excite and prepare their next-generation workforce,” Cricket Media founder Nina Zolt said in the news release. “We need to start early if we want to ensure that there is a diverse talent pool of scientists, engineers, and technologists to drive the future of innovation. But we can’t do this alone. We need corporate support to reach all of the students who can benefit.”

IEEE’s employees are participating in the pilot.

Companies that want to become a corporate partner can fill out a form on the TryEngineering Together website or email info@tryengineeringtogether.com.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities  for those who share a common interest in technology.  If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and become part of this worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and working professionals.

This article has been updated.

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