WMSI Youth Leaders Building Mentorship Skills Across the North Country!

By Jeremy Knowlton

WMSI Mobile STEM Lab has been off to the races in the 2017-18 school year with over 50 school visits under its belt and excited students across the North Country! In fact, since the program started in 2016 we've driven over 12,000 miles for our Mobile STEM students, or roughly half way around the world!

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One highlight of our Mobile Program has been our amazing 7th-12th grade Youth Leaders. These students have demonstrated strong mentorship, communication, and job skills. Our youth leaders have also enhanced our STEM environment with their jokes, projects, and all around goofiness (below)!

 After building a massive scissor arm, these students tried to answer the age old question of "how far will this stretch??"

After building a massive scissor arm, these students tried to answer the age old question of "how far will this stretch??"

At the start of sessions, Youth Leaders and I huddle up and discuss set-up logistics, roles for the session, and possible challenges. Leaders practice important job skills such as timeliness, setting up without being told, organizing materials, and team communication. At the end of sessions, our leaders help students with journal entries. After students leave, youth leaders help with our data by entering journal entries into spreadsheets.

 Explaining a very cool example build in front of class!

Explaining a very cool example build in front of class!

Leaders also work closely with students, asking good questions, discussing possible design ideas, and inspiring STEM Explorers in the art of tinkering. Furthermore, Leaders often present ideas and builds in front of the whole class! (above)

 Helping a Gorham student with some pretty cool circuitry

Helping a Gorham student with some pretty cool circuitry

Youth Leaders excite students by inspiring them to code, engineer, never give up on a project, and even take leadership opportunities of their own one day! 3rd-6th grade STEM explorers across Coos County have expressed excitement about being a leader in the future. One student in Milan told me "I want to be a blue shirt one day!" Indeed, these leaders are relatable and show a clear step upwards in STEM exploration and a switch from being mentored to mentoring others

 Code brainstorming

Code brainstorming

 hmm.. scissors, peg base, gear, soda. What are they building??

hmm.. scissors, peg base, gear, soda. What are they building??

 Discussing the finer points of gear systems and robotic artistry

Discussing the finer points of gear systems and robotic artistry

Youth leaders also form a strong Maker community during our sessions. I fondly remember youth leaders starting friendly snow ball fights before STEM Lab; proudly presenting a robotic Rubik's Cube Solver in front of class; making ridiculous jokes with each other while helping students code. These youth leaders are the backbone of WMSI STEM culture, adding an air of lightness, accessibility, and playfulness to STEM Lab. Not only that, but this year's youth leaders include four STEM explorers from last year, making WMSI Mobile STEM Lab a place to go for a multi-year experience with loads of room for growth!

 Goofing around with some code

Goofing around with some code

Thanks to our amazing youth leaders across Coos County!