When I first arrived at Rice, I was looking for ways to continue the volunteer mentorship work that I had pursued in high school. There were a few clubs available that offered student mentorship, but when I stumbled upon DREAM - Achievement through Mentorship, I realized that it would be a great way to combine my volunteering background with my engineering design passion.
DREAM uses hands-on engineering design challenges to encourage students to pursue STEM in college upon their high school graduation. Focusing on historically underrepresented groups and schools, Rice University students travel once a week to local Houston schools to mentor them in small teams, while having a candid and personal discussion about engineering in college. Personally, I have mentored at Chavez and Austin high schools, and have found that we are able to make big impacts with the mentees at these schools.
One of the reasons I like DREAM so much is that it’s a really great way to give back to the community. A lot of these students don’t even think of college as an option for them, but after hearing about financial aid, job prospects, and various engineering fields, they learn a lot more about the environment and understand the potential that they have.
It’s also very enjoyable to have a fast-paced and casual design session once a week. During my freshman year, I was able to use my MECH background to aid students in completing bridges and cantilevers using K’Nex pieces. It can be pretty challenging to find the balance between helping the students with their designs and not just completing the project for them. Having a strong technical background helps explain the broader concepts to the students, but they are then able to complete the design on their own.
The students test their designs against other teams at the end of the semester, when they visit Rice and tour the facilities. DREAM Day, as it’s known, allows the students to learn more about the college admissions process and see the engineering facilities firsthand. We especially love showing students the OEDK and Ryon Lab, as those labs excite them to see all the state-of-the-art equipment that’s available, and it gets students passionate and engaged about engineering right away.
The OEDK helps us out with a lot of guided tours, and I have been able to talk about my designs projects I have done at Rice through ENGI 120, the Rice Robotics Club, and Senior Design. We have also done regular tours of Dr. O’Malley’s MAHI lab, and the students get a chance to see groundbreaking research firsthand.
At the end of my freshman year, I became a Head Mentor for DREAM, which involves planning lessons, creating design projects, and coordinating DREAM Days. The experiences I had with my MECH education in brainstorming, oral presentations, and task management have all contributed to making me more successful as a Head Mentor and ensures that our mentees get the most out of the program.
DREAM has helped me grow as a leader, mentor, and educator. Visiting my school each week becomes one of the highlights of my week, as I become revitalized and engaged working with these students. DREAM has been an integral component in my undergraduate career, and I plan on staying involved however I can after graduation.