• 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

Mentors volunteer directly with student teams and share real-life STEM experiences, offer technical guidance, and help translate academic concepts to the real world of engineering and city design. You can volunteer to be a STEM mentor no matter where you are located. Download the Be A Mentor flier for more information or register now!

What will I do?

Your job is to work alongside the team educator to provide advice, guidance, and technical assistance as the team works on the project deliverables. Find out more by watching this short overview video.

Can you give me any tips on being a great mentor?

Watch this webinar to hear advice from experienced Future City mentors and their suggested best practices.


Student Learning

What will I teach the students?

As students work through the challenge they’ll encounter many new concepts and will look to you for guidance on topics such as project management, scale and ratio, 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

How do I teach students about engineering?

We provide a detailed handbook with  activities that help explain the  steps of 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 examples to your meetings that the team members can touch and feel, 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 an innovative 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 work in tandem with the team educator to guide the students as they work on the project deliverables. In the early weeks, you’ll meet with the kids to get to know them and focus them on the big picture: good urban design, an overview of the city essay topic, and brainstorming possible solutions. Later, you might help with the city model, teaching the students about scale, and helping them fine-tune their presentation. Making yourself available to review things like the city essay and ideas of futuristic components is helpful too. Just remember you are an advisor and the students do all 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. We welcome mentors with backgrounds in any STEM field, urban design and city planning, architecture, or a related field. We also encourage college and graduate-level students to get involved as team mentors.

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 essay 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 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 home runs. Celebrate results. Watch this webinar to learn tips and best practices from experienced team mentors. 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 - likely in the 2020-2021 season - virtually via a platform like Zoom or Google Hangout. The most important step is talking to your team's educator about what works best for the team at the beginning of the project. Typically, most engineers devote approximately 20-40 hours from September to January.

How many kids 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 deliverable (virtual city design, city model, city essay, city presentation, and project plan) and how you can best contribute. Establish a schedule. Educators vary on how they choose to 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?

Beginning with the 2021-2022 season, DiscoverE's Future City Competition program will require team mentors to complete standard background checks. We have partnered with IntelliCorp, a national leader in background checks for volunteers. The cost is $24.95 plus a county fee (county fee to be determined by your county and will be charged once you begin the application process). The background check will be good for 3 years of Future City mentorship. 

We expect to begin background checks in late June.

To learn more about IntelliCorp, click here.

What support will I have as a mentor?

This web site and the Program Handbook outline all of the program deliverables, provide introductory learning activities and assessment rubrics, list the competition rules, and offer tons of tips. Your local region might 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 mentors as well. You can work together to mentor the same team, or you can refer your friend to the Regional Coordinator, to be matched with another team in need of a mentor. If your colleagues can't commit the needed time to be a mentor, they could volunteer as judges instead. Ask your company leadership if they might consider signing on as a sponsor.

Does Future City 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