UCI School of Education Highlights OCSEF’s Mentor Match

University of California, Irvine (UCI) School of Education has highlighted OCSEF Mentor Match as one of their CalTeach programs, which allows undergraduates majoring in a STEM field to earn both their bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential in four years.

“It is an honor for the UCI CalTeach Program to partner with the OCSEF Mentor Match Program,” said Kris Houston, UCI CalTeach Academic Coordinator, “to support their goals of increasing diversity at the engineering fair and science competition not only in Orange County, but at the state level.”

“It is a pleasure to hear from both mentor teachers and UCI CalTeach students alike about the challenges and ultimately the successes of assisting their students in designing projects that are focused on finding solutions to scientific problems. It is our hope that the Mentor Match Program continues to grow and flourish at a steady rate amongst Orange County middle and high schools and that these students, who may have not originally seen themselves as scientists or engineers, are inspired to pursue a STEM degree and spark change in these fields.”

In 2018, UCI CalTeach partnered with the Orange County Science and Engineering Fair (OCSEF) to establish the OCSEF-UCI CalTeach Mentor Match. With a mission to increase participation in the fair among underserved communities, Mentor Match has grown from four schools and 39 K-12 students in its first year to six schools and more than 170 K-12 students. UCI CalTeach students have served as mentors and supporters of the fair, helping create teams at K-12 schools in Santa Ana, Garden Grove, Westminster, and Newport Beach, and worked with students at the Shipley Nature Center in Huntington Beach, the Discovery Cube OC, and the Santa Ana Zoo.

In 2019, a team from Santa Ana High School, supported by UCI CalTeach students and teacher mentors, advanced to the state finals. There, they presented the project they designed and created: Set It & Forget It, a low-cost, self-watering planter. The team engineered their device to monitor and digitally display all conditions pertinent to plant growth, including temperature, humidity, light, and water level. The planter waters plants based on the soil moisture level entered by the user. Their final product was 3-D modeled, printed, tested, wired, and coded by the group of three students: Patricia Limon, Lizbeth Romero, and Elissa Monterroso.