Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center: Mentors in the Making

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Application

The Mentors in the Making program is a 1:1 mentoring program at Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center for youth ages 14-18 from low-income families in the Pittsburgh area.  The program was started in 2017 because, although the Mobile Fab Lab brings digital fabrication experiences to hundreds of students in their classrooms, they saw a need to provide students with long-term interaction inside the Fab Lab space.  With Mentors in the Making, students come to the Fab Lab week after week and are able to work on complex projects that require designing multiple prototypes and going through the processes of experimentation and problem-solving.  Being a program for high school students, there is also a career focus to the program.  Students build a relationship with a mentor who works in a STEM profession and learn soft skills and technological literacy that can be applied to a variety of STEM fields.   

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION

During the Mentors in the Making program, students are matched with an adult STEM professional, and the pairs co-learn digital fabrication technologies, software, and design skills led by Fab Lab Education Facilitators.  The pairs meet weekly in the Fab Lab and work through digital fabrication projects, including 3D printing, laser cutting, and electronics. Students are provided with all necessary materials, transportation costs, and a meal for each session.  After completing four projects and earning their certifications on the CNC machines, the mentoring pairs begin collaboration on a capstone project.  For the second year of the program, a Human-Centered Design element was added to the capstone project, where students focus on designing and creating something that will have an impact in their community.  At the end of the program, the youth receive a laptop computer to enable future design work.

GROWTH

CSC partnered with The Mentoring Partnership (TMP) for the second year of the program, and they have shared Elements of Effective Practices to provide mentoring support and program analysis. This partnership is working to enrich the quality of the mentoring relationship while reaching CSC’s goals of STEM integration and career awareness.

Partnerships with other Pittsburgh youth organizations also provide students with opportunities and support for career exploration beyond the Fab Lab.  During the first year of the program, MitM partnered with School2Career and had two students who completed the program working at CSC during summer camps, with the goal of expanding the opportunities available to students after they complete the program.

This in-depth, hands-on STEM-focused mentoring program could reach more students and STEM professionals in the Pittsburgh area and beyond with increased funding and commitments from additional mentors. Desired mentors are professionals in STEM fields who are interested in making a difference in the life of an at-risk youth in the area.  No previous fabrication experience is needed to be a mentor, just an interest in technology and a commitment to the process of developing meaningful Making through mentoring. Fab Lab Staff Educators are on hand to help the pair work through the lessons and learn the software and hardware technologies.

With the success of the first two sessions, CSC will continue to seek funding and partners to allow this program to grow and thrive, with several goals in mind for scaling the program:
 

  • Goal of 20 mentoring pairs in the 2019-2020 school year
  • Data collection and analysis from all three years examining results and impact
  • Development of employment pipeline for “graduating” mentees
  • Development of “Mentors in the Making Playbook” that could be used by other Fab Labs across the globe
  • Dissemination and presentation of the playbook to other digital fabrication labs via Fab Foundation via conferences and events


WAYS YOU CAN SUPPORT THIS PROGRAM
 

  • Become a mentor by committing one evening a week for the length of the program.
  • Help spread the word about our need for mentors among those inclined to make a difference in the life of a young person – all while learning fabrication skills!
  • Sponsor a student participant. A gift of $3,000 covers the cost of one participating student for the length of the program
  • Connect CSC with potential funders and partners.