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Near-peer Mentoring as a Tool for Increasing Interest in STEM

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track: Pre-college - Technical Session 5

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Pre-College

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Paper Authors


Margaret Hart Johns Hopkins University

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Margaret Hart, Ed. M is the STEM Outreach Advisor at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering's Center for Educational Outreach. She works closely with student groups and leads our robotics outreach efforts. Margaret has a bachelor’s degree in Astronomy from Boston University and a Masters in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University. She has worked as a software test engineer, run a high-school outreach program at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, and taught physics, astronomy and engineering in Cambridge, MA and at Baltimore City Public Schools in Baltimore MD. One of her passions is photography which she has taught to both middle and high school students.

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Christine A. Newman Johns Hopkins University

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Assistant Dean, Center for Educational Outreach, Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: (410) 516-4473; email:

Professional Preparation:
Virginia Polytechnic and State University B.S. Mechanical Engineering 1989
Marshall University MBA 1995

2010-Present Assistant Dean, Center for Educational Outreach, Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD
2007-2009 Director, Business Transformation Office, Single Family Mortgage Division, Fannie Mae, Washington DC
2005-2007 Program Pricing Director, Restatement Division, Fannie Mae, Washington, DC
2000-2005 Senior Program Manager, eBusiness Division, Fannie Mae, Washington, DC
1999-2000 Senior Product Manager, Essential Technologies, Inc., Rockville, MD
1998-1999 Product Manager, Essential Technologies, Inc., Rockville, MD
1994-1998 Manager, Air Programs, Apex Environmental Inc., Rockville, MD
1993-1994 Senior Environmental Engineer, Union Carbide Chemicals & Plastics, Inc., Charleston, WV
1989-1992 Advanced Systems Engineer, Union Carbide Chemicals & Plastics, Inc., Charleston, WV

Synergistic Activities:
Project Leadership Team for STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools (SABES), an NSF Funded Math Science Partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools Grant No. DUE-1237992, 2012 – 2018.
Advancing Excellence in P-12 Engineering Education contributor 2017 and 2018
100K in 10 project team, 2019
Professional Engineer, Commonwealth of Virginia, License No. 021864, 1996-2010
Board of Directors, Maryland Science Olympiad, 2010-present; Chair, 2017 - present
Co-Lead, STEM workgroup, Consortium for Urban Education, Baltimore, MD 2014-2015
Maryland State Department of Education STEM Equity workgroup 2014-2015
Champions Board, Mid Atlantic Girls Collaborative Network

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Sai Pinni

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For the last six years a STEM outreach center at an urban R1 university has worked with programs that utilize near-peer mentoring of pre-college students by undergraduate students in engineering and science.

In 2012, engineering and science undergraduate students participating in a social entrepreneurship course developed a proposal to create a student organization that used Science Olympiad as a vehicle to inspire middle school students to consider STEM majors and to increase their interest in STEM. Science Olympiad is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to “improve the quality of K-12 science education, increase male, female and minority interest in science, [and] create a technologically-literate workforce”.

The undergraduate students served as mentors to local schools with Science Olympiad teams. Near-peer mentoring has been shown to be a powerful tool for outreach efforts, both for the mentee (SIGCSE '18 Proceedings of the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education Pages 664-669) and the mentor – especially for underrepresented minorities (Perspect Undergrad Res Mentor. 2015;4(1)).

Strategic partnerships, member motivations, financial support and strong student leadership were the main factors in the exponential growth and success of the organization. The organization grew from five initial mentors in 2012 to over 100 mentors in 2018 serving more than 500 middle school students since 2012.

The two main strategic partnerships were the STEM outreach center of the R1 university and the local Science Olympiad coordinator. The STEM outreach center had the connections to the local school district as well as in-house expertise on curriculum development and implementation of out-of-school time STEM programming in PK-12 settings. These connections and expertise allowed the student organization to build a strong foundation of well-trained mentors and locate a pilot school with which to work as it began. The local Science Olympiad coordinator was invested in the success of the local teams and welcomed the support that the student organization gave to both new and veteran coaches.

Many of the undergraduate mentors chose to join this organization because of their own experiences with Science Olympiad before attending university. Not only did they thoroughly enjoy their past experience, most of them wrote or spoke about their experience in their mentor applications or interviews as the reason they were pursuing a STEM major.

The success is shown by both the expansion of the program at the university level (it is currently one of the largest student organizations on campus) as well as integration into the school system’s plan as it seeks to continue the expansion of Science Olympiad to include high schools. The student organization is actively taking a role in supporting this progression into the local high schools.

Hart, M., & Newman, C. A., & Pinni, S. (2019, April), Near-peer Mentoring as a Tool for Increasing Interest in STEM Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia.

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