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Mentors in the Making

A 1:1 mentoring program for low-income teens and STEM professionals to learn digital fabrication tools and technologies

Low-income students are paired with STEM professionals to co-learn digital fabrication technologies, from 3D printing to CNC machining. The mentoring pairs meet once a week in Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center to learn the software and hardware of the lab while practicing the engineering design cycle. The pair work toward prototyping a capstone project that solves a challenge in the community.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

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February 2019
The students have gained a lot of confidence in being able to try new things, not be afraid, be able to take a little bit of a risk, and be able to use new tools.

About the innovation

What is Mentors in the Making

The Mentors in the Making program matches low-income high school students with  STEM professionals on a 1:1 basis in a digital fabrication maker space. The pairs meet once a week at Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center and learn side by side the tools and technologies of the lab. Dinner is included, and the pairs’ relationship grows as they co-learn and share their experiences. STEM mentors help by guiding conversations about careers, school, and even help create a resume with their student, but they are not professionals in digital fabrication themselves. The unique aspect of this program is that the mentors are learning at the same pace as the students, and that is essential in empowering the students to become makers and inspiring them to be lifelong learners.

The program lasts throughout the school year, and the pairs start with lessons taught by Fab Lab education facilitators. As their time progresses, the students and professionals begin to engage autonomously with the equipment in the lab and they work together using human centered design to create a prototype that solves a challenge in their school or community. By the end of the program, the pairs have a physical prototype of their solution and a celebration of their time together in the lab.

The program began in the 2017-2018 school year with 10 students and mentors, all of which completed the entire program, with over 30 hours of 1:1 mentoring.  Post survey results were conducted with help from The Mentoring Partnership, and 100% of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "Since I've participated in this program, I feel more connected to professionals in the STEM fields."  This connection is an important aspect of the program; coupled with the desire to learn about new technologies, it creates a unique, positive learning environment for both students and mentors.

Implementation steps

Find a great makerspace and passionate people.

1- Identify the space and staff to run the program.

2- Contact your local mentoring support organization. (mentor.org)

3- Contact Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center to get a copy of the "Mentors in the Making Playbook."  This playbook is being developed for other makerspaces across the globe to implement this program. 

Find local STEM professionals to serve as mentors

Many regions have volunteer recruiting organizations or even mentoring organizations that can help with this step (Mentor.org).  Reach out to local STEM-related companies and professional organizations to recruit volunteer mentors who are excited to work with your students. Use connections your organization might already have with companies and volunteer groups in your area. Remember, the mentors will be learning alongside the students, so prior knowledge of digital fabrication tools is not necessary.

Recruit students.

Partner with local schools or after school organizations to identify and recruit low-income students.  If funding is available, it is helpful to offer a stipend or a computer as incentive to join the program.  

Have the applicants complete an application form, and, using the results, match them up with a STEM professional mentor.

Start making!

Makerspace educators will introduce the students and mentors to the digital fabrication equipment in the space in a series of pre-designed lesson plans. As the participants become more comfortable with the equipment and each other, introduce the human centered design process and begin assisting pairs with identifying a community need and addressing it in the lab with the equipment. 

Celebrate successes.
This event marks the completion of the program and should be a celebration of the learning.  Invite parents, teachers, and anyone other stakeholders in the program.  If possible, this is where stipend checks or other incentives are handed out to the students.

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