OCSEF-UCI CalTeach Mentor Match Program

Westminster High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District says:

A significant mission for the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) Board is to support schools and districts in building a strong 21st century workforce in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers.

With specific intent on building equity and access for all students, the OCSEF Board, in partnership and collaboration with UCI CalTeach Program and the Broadcom Foundation, has established the OCSEF-UCI CalTeach Mentor Match Program.

The underlying purpose of the Mentor Match Program is to address both a decrease in high school student participation and the limited diversity representation in science and engineering fair competition.

The OCSEF Mentor Match Program has a two-prong approach to building both high school and diversity representation at the annual Orange County Science and Engineering Fair.

  1. Science, technology, math and engineering university students in the UCI-CalTeach Program will be matched with middle and high school students at targeted schools in districts with a high underrepresented student population;
  2. Veteran Science Fair teachers will be matched with new Teacher Supervisors that serve as master teachers for the UCI student teachers enrolled in the CalTeach Program.

Participating schools/districts over the past two years of implementation are:

  • Santa Ana USD
    • McFadden MS
    • Santa Ana HS
    • Willard Intemediate
  • Garden Grove USD
    • Santiago HS
  • Huntington Beach Union High School District
    • Westminster High School
  • Newport Mesa USD
    • Ensign Intermediate


UCI-CalTeach Mentors (student teachers):

  • are provided onsite school/class support during the fall and winter quarters of UCI, spanning a total of 16-18 weeks beginning in late September-early October (which is aligned with UCI-CalTeach’s program in the targeted schools).
  • receive THREE 2.5 hr. trainings, along with electronic resources on research design, OCSEF rules, regulations, suggested strategies for good, positive mentoring of adolescents, along with addressing questions/issues that may arise.
  • receive periodic emails and/or site visits from OCSEF Outreach Committee to afford troubleshooting opportunities and address any questions/issues that may arise
  • receive a “baseline” honorarium at the end of the first quarter, an additional post-science fair honorarium based on the percentage of their student-mentees that register for OCSEF Science Fair, along with a transportation stipend.
  • receive a Certificate of Participation and a Letter of Recommendation for their professional vitae as additional incentives.

Teacher Supervisors (master teachers):

  • are provided a Veteran Science Fair Teacher or an OCSEF Board Member, who will help provide bi-monthly support (i.e. face-to-face, phone and email support and/or troubleshooting) throughout the project time frame.
  • receive an honorarium for participation in the program, financial support for display boards, materials and equipment to support student research, in addition to a waiver for student project registration fees for the OCSEF Science Fair.
  • receive THREE 2.5 hr. trainings and electronic resources on research design, OCSEF rules, regulations, in addition to ongoing support during the duration of the project.  On-going training/guidance is provided with a Veteran Science Fair Teacher or OCSEF Board member.

Veteran Science Fair Teachers:

  • receive orientation training from OCSEF Outreach Committee on ways to provide ongoing, consistent support to the Teacher Supervisor.
  • Is provided with a minimum of bi-monthly support, OR as needed, (a minimum of two face-to-face, email and/or phone communications) with their assigned Teacher Supervisors.
  • receive an honorarium for mentoring new teachers. 
  • have project registration fees waived for their students who enter the Science Fair.
  • receive periodic emails from OCSEF Outreach Committee to address any questions/issues that may arise with new Teacher Supervisors.

Beginning small and focused with 4 schools and 39 students in Year 1, Mentor Match has grown to 6 schools and over 170 students this year. During the 2020 fall and winter quarters at UCI, over 10 CalTeach mentors learned the ins and outs of teaching science fair at cool locations like the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach, the Discovery Cube OC and the Santa Ana Zoo. CalTeach mentors supported teachers from Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster and Newport Beach during school, afterschool and virtually.

"As a 2nd year mentor in the OCSEF Mentor Match program some people may ask why did I come back another year. I came back because the OCSEF program provided so many support systems including educating teachers/student teachers, a budget to buy materials and mostly important a community of educators and board members wanting to provide all students an equal chance to do science and communicate about science outside the classroom. The best surprise I had this year was when I reached out for help to get some feedback I was greeted with the offer of having the actual OCSEF board members come into my classroom to talk to each of my 60 plus students about their projects. I was shocked at the offer and dedication of the board members. They not only came once but multiple times and that was a big game changer for my students. My students have never completed a science fair project in their life and there was resistance but after seeing all the support provided them you could see and feel the mentality of the classroom change. The students began to see themselves as the expert in the classroom and rely less and less on the teacher."


UCI-CalTeach Program Coordinator:
Kris Houston, Academic Coordinator for UCI CalTeach