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What do mentors get out of Future City?
What do mentors get out of Future City?
What do mentors get out of Future City?
What do mentors get out of Future City?

Your Role

Local STEM professionals serve as mentors, alongside seasoned educators, providing guidance and support to middle school students as they solve relevant citywide sustainability issues. Download the Be A Mentor flier for more information!

What will I do?

Your job is to provide advice, guidance, and technical assistance as your students work on the various project deliverables. Find out more in About the Competition.

Which schools are participating?

Check out a list of all schools participating in this year’s competition in your region. Visit the Interactive Map


Student Learning

What will I teach the students?

As students work through the challenge they’ll encounter many new things and will look to you for guidance, including: project management, scale, and even hand tool techniques. But the best thing you can do is to introduce students to what it’s like to be a real engineer, about the different engineering career paths available to them, and about how engineers approach and solve real world problems. See more about different engineering fields at www.DiscoverE.org/discover-engineering.

How do I teach students about engineering?

We provide a detailed handbook with classroom activities that help elucidate the different steps in the engineering design process. But you’ll provide the secret sauce--real stories about engineering in action. Students love stories, especially ones that have a surprise ending. Describe a project that didn’t go as planned, and tell the students how you re-engineered a solution to the problem. Bring objects to class that the students can touch and feel. Students would love to see technical drawings, material samples, or even marketing materials that demonstrate clear communication. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Getting Started

Why should I volunteer?

America needs more engineers and technical professionals to fuel our innovation economy. Future City is a wonderful way to introduce 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to engineering and expose them to a rewarding career possibility. Post-program surveys show that a majority of students become more interested in math, science and engineering after completing Future City. See our Community and Impact.

What does the mentor do?

As a mentor you provide advice, guidance, and technical assistance as your students work on the various project components. In the early weeks, you’ll meet with the team to get to know your students and focus them on the big picture: good urban design, an overview of the city description topic, and brainstorming possible solutions. Later, you’ll help with the model, teaching the students about scale, and helping them fine-tune their presentation. Making yourself available by email to review things like the city description and ideas of futuristic components is helpful too. Just remember you are the advisor and the students do the actual work.

Does the mentor need to be an engineer or licensed?

The mentor should have a technical background sufficient to understand the project and be able to coach the team. While an engineering background is preferable, it is not mandatory. Licensure is not required.

Are you looking for a specific engineering discipline?

No. Future City asks students do the things that all engineers do—identify problems; brainstorm ideas; design solutions; test, retest and build; and share their results. And while a city is a complex structure with aspects that are beyond any one engineer's realm of expertise, all engineers have the background and the skills to go out and find the solutions. This is exactly what we are trying to model for the students.

The city description question is not in my area of expertise, should I still volunteer?

Of course! Engineers are trained to solve problems. And, problem solving is an essential skill that the mentor needs to help the educator instill in the students. Teach them how to break a problem down into parts, research alternatives and develop a solution. And, as you would in your job, enlist the help of other engineers or technical professionals who are experts in the field.

What is the most important thing for the new mentors to know?

Experienced mentors tell us: 1. Future City is a multi-faceted program, so don’t try and do it all at once. Set up a schedule and pace yourself to accomplish all of your goals. 2. Like any team, your Future City group will have ebbs and flows of energy. Keep them motivated and focused. 3. Don't let your adult world limit the students' imaginations. It is amazing what ideas these kids will generate. Once they have settled on a concept, make sure that it has a sound scientific basis. 4. Help the students get the most out of the program (e.g., how to: solve problems; work as a team; share ideas; think in 3D; and communicate their results). 5. Shoot for singles and not homeruns. Celebrate results. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making It Happen

What is the time commitment for a mentor?

Ideally, you will be able to work with the kids and provide advice and technical assistance throughout the project. This may happen in person, via email, or even over Skype. The most important step is talking to your educator partner about what works best for the team at the beginning of the project. Typically, most engineers devote approximately 12-14 hours from September to January.

How many students will I be mentoring?

It depends. In some cases you may be working with a whole class (or classes) that work as a team on one design. Or, with a number of smaller groups working on multiple designs. Some educators work with smaller groups, like the science club, in an after-school environment. Or you might be paired with a three student member team. Read about different team formats to understand the possibilities.

How do I work with the educator?

The educator is the leader and you are the advisor. Start by discussing the educator's needs for each project component (virtual city design, physical model, essay and team presentation) and how you can best contribute. Establish a schedule. Educators differ on how they schedule the project. Some offer Future City as part of a class, some split the work between class and after school, and others do the program as part of an after school club or program.

Do I need to complete a background check before I start working with the students?

Check with your educator and Regional Coordinator to determine whether you will need a background check to work with your assigned program. Rules vary from state to state, district to district, and school to school. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Getting Help

What support will I have as a mentor?

This web site and the Educator Handbook outline all of the program components, provide classroom learning activities, have assessment rubrics, list the program rules, and offer tons of tips. Your region may provide program orientations, in person and online training sessions, student help sessions, regular email updates, tip sheets, and maybe even a t-shirt! Find your region to learn about what is available in your area.

How can I involve my colleagues?

Encourage your colleagues to become a mentor as well. You can work together to mentor the same team, or you can refer your friend to the Regional Coordinator, in order to find another team in need of a mentor. In addition, encourage your colleagues to serve as judges, and ask your company leaders if they would consider signing on as a sponsor.

Does the Future City program provide assistance in requesting time off to volunteer for this program?

Many companies provide paid time off to volunteer in the community. Unfortunately, we do not have an exhaustive list of all of those companies, nor can we stay up-to-date on company policies. We strongly encourage you to connect with your human resources department to determine whether or not they will approve paid time off to serve as a mentor. If you need detailed information about what you will be doing, please contact your Regional Coordinator for assistance.

2,500 Educators & Mentors

4,000 Student Teams