This spring, STEM in the Park partnered with the Travis Manion Foundation (TMF) to run a mentoring program for 20 ninth grade students from Knightdale and East Wake High Schools. This first-of-its-kind program ran from January to May 2019, and infused STEM into TMF’s “Character Does Matter” curriculum.
With the help of veteran mentors who also possessed STEM career experience, the students identified personal character strengths. Not only did they learn how to use those traits to succeed in their own communities, but also in STEM-focused career fields. A few of the character traits highlighted included leadership, fairness, perspective, and communication.
One activity the students tackled was designing and creating a prototype. Using random assortments of items, students worked in groups with mentors to design a unique device and wrote instructions on how to build it. The groups then rotated and upon receiving another group’s set of supplies, had to build that device using only the instructions provided. In this activity, students seized the opportunity to utilize engineering and design principles, as well as teamwork, communication, and perseverance character traits.
In addition to the Saturday meetings covering the “Character Does Matter” curriculum, the group got a chance to tour NetApp’s RTP campus at one of their data centers. Additionally, students attended STEM in the Park’s SciFest on April 5 in RTP, where they were able to meet with multiple scientists one on one and learn about different career opportunities in science.
The success of this pilot program is demonstrated through the students’ feedback: After the program, 73% of students felt empowered to use their character strengths to make a positive impact, and 82% of students felt confident that they could succeed in a STEM career. STEM RTP is excited to continue this partnership with TMF.