SCIENCE FAIR MENTORING FOR MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS: A PATHWAY ACROSS THE STEM ACHIEVEMENT GAP FOR UNDERREPRESENTED STUDENTS
In order to address this STEM education achievement gap, we have created a science fair mentoring program to engage middle and high schools students from underrepresented communities in high-level science research. After three years, this program has shown great success in both creating competitive science fair projects and facilitating students’ entry into STEM majors in college. All of our mentored projects have progressed beyond first round science fair and many have reached state level competitions. Though the program is only three years old, we have seen direct success in moving RUSD students into STEM majors at four-year colleges. This program began as a component of a NASA Innovations in Climate Education and has been sustainably extended beyond the timeline of that grant. While each 7-12th grade student can receive up to $250 to spend on their project, mentors volunteer their time and this program is run at minimal cost to UCR. In addition to the direct benefits to participants, this program has strengthened connections between UCR and RUSD, and thus has helped to improve the STEM education pipeline in the region.