The national imperative to increase the production of computer science and engineering professionals has garnered the attention of both public and private sectors of the economy. As such, private companies, such as Verizon have begun to fund what they call Innovation in Learning (VIL) initiatives that aim to increase participation in these fields. Initiatives such as these, also recognize the need to diversify the engineering workplace by focusing specifically on engaging, inspiring, and motivating underrepresented minority (URM) youth by exposing them to engineering and other STEM concepts. During summer 2017, a southeastern university participated in hosting one of the seventeen Verizon sponsored STEM Camps. The university hosted 144 URM middle school kids for three weeks on campus to explore engineering habits of mind, engineering design principles, and computer science application development fundamentals. The camp was primarily facilitated by fourteen student mentors. One of the principle elements of the camp was to have mentors that reflected the demographics of the student population. As such, the mentor demographics consisted of 12 URM male mentors and 2 URM female mentors. Upon conclusion of the summer camp all of the student mentors were asked to participate in an open-ended survey that inquired about their experiences as student-mentors. The research questions guiding this study were: What role does race and gender have on the development of student mentor relationships? What are the implications of those mentor relationships on STEM identity development of the student-mentors? These research questions were answered through the use of thematic analysis, yielding two main themes: 1) barriers and connections associated with race and gender and 2) development of role identity - specifically the sub-constructs of performance/competence and interest. The results of this study suggest that engaging in mentoring relationships, while motivated by altruistic desires, strengthened STEM role identity development. Previous literature has demonstrated that salient STEM identity development can contribute to persistence in these fields. Promoting engagement in mentoring opportunities, like summer camps, could aid in increasing and sustaining URM STEM majors.
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