Female students and their mentors

Mentor Makers: Building relationships one activity at a time

KC STEM Alliance’s Mentor Makers program expanded into five high schools this year, giving 80 female students a chance to explore STEM-based projects side by side with women who work in a variety of STEM fields.

Program director Marian McClellan worked with a group of educators, STEM professionals and corporate partners to develop a framework for reaching girls at a time when they often drop out of STEM activities or classes.

Unlike “speed mentoring,” Mentor Makers is designed to let girls get to know female role models in a relaxed environment over the course of a school year. At the same time, mentors have the opportunity to meet and exchange notes on their mentoring experiences.

Mentor and student use tablet

Meeting in four sessions, students learned about famous women in STEM, used software to solve traffic issues around their own school buildings, tested drones and assembled foldable microscopes. At each session, mentors from all walks of STEM life were at the table to offer encouragement and share their own experiences.

McClellan said much work goes into recruiting mentors who reflect the diversity of participating students.

“It’s a very intentional process,” McClellan said. “It’s important that students see the possibilities ahead for careers in STEM.”

To close out the year’s activities, all participating schools came together for a celebration at the KC Engineering Zone, which included a chance to work in the machine shop creating commemorative plaques and jewelry.

Mentor and students in workshop

Special thanks to General Motors and the 40 women who took time out to spend with students. To find out how you can support Mentor Makers, contact KC STEM Alliance.