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RELEASE: National Mentoring Month: Oregon MESA Offering Invention Toolkit, Coaches

STEM Education Non-Profit offers Coaches, Invention Toolkit to Inspire Innovation, Exploration, & Fun

January 7, 2021, Portland, OR—In celebration of National Mentoring Month, Oregon MESA
(Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) is introducing its STEM Coaching Program and offering a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-focused Invention Toolkit, with the necessary components for youth, educators, and classrooms to build their own microprocessor-powered invention.

However, the Invention Toolkit is more than just a fun package of materials and tips, it is an innovative curriculum framework for middle and high school educators designed to help female, low-income, and students of color to practice using invention to solve real-world problems. In MESA these students not only graduate from high school, but also enroll in post-secondary studies and enter the workforce with STEM, 21st century, and invention skills — fueling the innovation economy with diverse, talented leaders.

Invention Toolkit: From Product Idea to Development

Offered with full trainings and ongoing support that includes modules in “hands-on engineering” projects and “intro to computer science” for educators of all backgrounds, the Oregon MESA Invention Toolkit facilitates the full invention process, from inception to product development, with:

  1. An introduction to invention and human-centered stages and concepts
  2. Design activities
  3. Worksheets and Lesson Guides
  4. Pacing guide for implementation

“Oregon MESA is the only adaptable and prototype-driven math, engineering, and science program for traditionally underrepresented students that takes an ecosystems approach to education, involving schools, families, businesses and mentors to empower the technology-based workforce of the future,” says Oregon MESA Executive Director Dr. Tong Zhang. “Just as important, it is fun, accessible and empowers students to experience the joy of invention and discovery.”

Pandemic Progress: In-Person Curriculum Converted to Online

In a year that has seen extraordinary shifts and challenges for educators, students, and parents, MESA has developed a STEM-focused program offering that meets the trifecta goal of being:

  1. Completely Online
  2. Engaging and fun with a real-world, hands-on component
  3. Designed to lessen workload for educators and parents

“We’ve traditionally been a very hands-on curriculum, and we still are,” says Dr. Zhang. “We are assertively reaching out to all of our students to understand their needs at home and ensure that they have all the necessary tools such as laptops and other equipment. Luckily, since most have already been learning online, they can still take advantage of the Oregon MESA offerings.”

Oregon MESA Student Success: Participants 3x More Likely to Graduate

In its 35 years of equipping educators with cutting-edge curriculum for invention education and creating innovators in and out of the classroom, Oregon MESA has helped improve graduation rates as well as college admissions among its program participants. A 10-year longitudinal study of three cohorts of students conducted by Education Northwest found that MESA students are three times more likely to graduate from high school: 87% of MESA students graduated from high school as opposed to 73% of their demographically matched peers.

Oregon MESA Coaches: Filling the Mentor Gap

A partnership between Oregon MESA and the Portland State University Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program, the STEM Coaching Program connects students with college and career coaches who can guide them in finding the right path toward success.

The new STEM Coaching Program was created to fill the mentoring gap left both by the pandemic and by the lack of equitable access for students who are underrepresented in STEM fields.

“The STEM Coaching Program closes the connection gap during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we’ve all been unable to interact as openly and as often as we normally would on a day-to-day basis. For students, this is especially important. The STEM Coaching program is a way for students to have access to peers and role models who have similar interests,” says MESA Program Coordinator Bianca Cha-Camp. “Students who are underrepresented in STEM fields often don’t have family connections that could introduce them to STEM professionals or college student mentors. MESA has a large network, and we’re leveraging those connections to help students find quality coaches in the STEM fields.”

About Oregon MESA

Oregon MESA, a program of Portland State University since 1985, creates an ecosystem of hundreds of students, teachers, families, companies, and volunteers, all focused on improving the diversity of the tech-based workforce and helping underrepresented students excel in math, engineering, and science. Oregon MESA provides students underrepresented in the fields of mathematics, engineering, science, and technology with the skills, knowledge, and opportunities to develop their talents, explore technology-based careers, enter college, and compete successfully in the workforce. The curriculum teaches a range of applicable skills that starts with problem identification, idea generation, physical prototyping, iterative problem solving, cooperative achievement, and public speaking. Video and more information can be found here.