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Program to bring together gifted science students and mentors?

  1. Apr 2, 2006 #1


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    Hi! I recently went to a science fair as a judge, and I started talking to a bunch of other judges. We found that there doesn't seem to be any organization dedicated to bringing together people good at certain fields of science with gifted children to encourage them to explore in science. For example, someone who wants to do a project with robots or who likes robots can be linked up with a robots engineer who wants to spend his or her time tutoring people who need help with a robot project (or inspire them to do robot projects).

    There are a lot of "help people bad at science" groups and "help inner city youth at science" groups, but not much for bright scientists who don't find themselves challenged by the curriculum.

    I found myself in the same boat as a child. I wanted to do the Westinghouse but I couldn't figure out what exactly to work on. A mentor would have come in handy. Eventually, I bailed out when I realized that I didn't have time to work on it (my school got out at 5:43 PM every day!)

    I'm envisioning a bulletin board or a Web site where scientists can log in describing themselves and checking off which fields (just take it off a standard science fair sheet), age groups (pre-K, elementary, junior high, high school), and type of assistance (gifted students, students which need help) they believe they'd be capable of giving. They'd also provide a location where they operate out of so if a mentor wants to get together with a student face to face, they can sort by that as well.

    Do you know of any such program? If not, do you think there's a market for it?

    Thanks in advance,

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 2, 2006 #2


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    It's a great idea, but I don't see it happening.

    I just don't see many engineers/scientists wanting to go one-on-one with kids. After awhile scientists themselves end up not being as passionate about their field, so you don't want them. A lot of them are busy too. (I'm not saying all scientists, but some.)

    Also, believe it or not, there are programs of this sort. Most universities take on the bright kids from elementary and high school kids for a 2 week camp or something of the sort. Our school does it for mathematics, but I'm not sure about other fields since I'm not in them.

    Most kids have ideas to do things, and not just the bright ones. I believe the truly bright one is the one who ends up doing the idea they had.
  4. Apr 2, 2006 #3
    I find the opposite to be true. At my undergrad institution, the hard sciences put on a lecture series every year where a professor from each one of the departments would give a lecture aimed at middle school kids (ages 10-14) to get them interested in science and to challenge the ones who already were. There would be great little experiments and the kids were often directly asked questions by the presenter. The professors loved doing it and the public always came out in force.

    But, I think if this was a website in which someone was trying to make money off of it- you would not find many scientists willing to help out. But if someone was to get a grant from say the NSF or something like that, to set up and maintain this site, that you might find some scientists who would be more than willing to help.

    I think this is an excellent idea, but I think it would be very difficult to implement. You would have to check the background and credentials of all scientists and how would you choose the students who were gifted? What would the criteria be?
  5. Apr 2, 2006 #4


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    I haven't thought the logistics through completely yet. However, I figured the mentors would put their resumes and so forth online so that the children's parents can look at them.

    I hadn't thought of it being necessarily for financial gain. It would just be for volunteer work for people who like teaching kids.

    Note that the volunteers need not be professional scientists. The person I was talking to at the science fair was a 19-year-old Northeastern undergrad who would have loved to do stuff like this. She knew a lot of science herself. The younger the mentor (the closer in age they are to the student), the more effective and friendly the relationship would likely be.

    I mentioned it to my boss (perhaps my company would sponsor such a thing since we're an engineering firm), and much to my surprised he pushed it up to one of the bigwigs. They think it's an interesting idea and are thinking of linking up with one of the institutions in the area. However, I don't think it will be good enough -- that institution is more of a "teach local students only" institution.

    One of the things that I "happened" to mention to my boss is that if we get people interested in engineering, we may wind up developing a farm system of young people who would eventually become employees. A bio firm can sponsor the biology stuff, stuff like that.

    Volunteers don't necessarily have to meet with the student face to face -- contact over the phone and email and stuff will also work.

  6. Apr 3, 2006 #5
    I think this is a great idea. I'm a high school student, and although its too late for me now, I know I would love to have some kind of knowledgable person as a mentor, to help me make my ideas real, or even just help me learn about something I am interested in. By first hand experience, I can say that this system would be very effective (depending on how determined the student is and how forthcoming the mentor)... I have interest in computer programming, and happened to know a relative involved in this field, who has helped me further my interest. Many times its something as simple as pointing in the right direction. The most useful asset is that I can be involved in real projects and have someone to help me out wherever I get stuck. There are many bright students out there with potential to do great things, but most don't even know where to begin, and others that do have great ideas believe that the task is beyond them. An organization like this one can help them realize these ideas.
  7. Apr 3, 2006 #6


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    Most scientific and engineering societies have some type of program in which members are encouraged to mentor younger members or students, although the students are typically college level. However, a lot depends on the individual scientist and engineer.

    I fully support mentoring programs, and whenever possible work with students, even one-on-one, to support them in their academic programs.

    I was also at a recent student conference in which I was a judge.
  8. Apr 3, 2006 #7


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    Sounds like we have enough support to make me think about getting this off the ground.

    All we'd probably need is a website at first and publicity.

  9. Apr 4, 2006 #8


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    Well, PhysicsForums is the venue I use to meet students who are interested in a mentor. It works quite well actually.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2006
  10. Apr 4, 2006 #9


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    I didn't participate in this discussion till now, mainly because I tend to be the one to throw the cold water over things like this.

    I've volunteered for several mentoring program here at the lab where we support and track the progress of a few high school program around the area. So I have a bit of an experience in such a thing.

    Now, if I were to simply surf the web and find a website touting a mentoring program and wants really personal info on me to be considered, you know what I would do? Run the other way.

    You will not have any credibility without having an association with a recognized organization. No one is going to submit personal background info to some website, except for those people who actually replied to the SPAM they're getting that announced that they've won a huge inheritance. Even here, on PF, we tend to caution people about revealing personal info, since in most cases, we have no way of verifying such claims.

    I am not so sure if something like this is not available already.

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