Mentoring

I’ve been independently learning how to program in python (2.6-2.7). I’ve written a few different programs, already. The ones below:
a) the program Mentor.py helps to diversify mentoring if people are looking to establish mentoring relationships this year – specifically affirming some disadvantaged groups, also recognizing that some of these groups will, as a group, perhaps have different resources, needs, and sometimes values.
b) the program Country.py picks another country from the Western hemisphere if opportunities cannot be found within one’s own country.

So, for example, running the Mentor.py program today came up with:
“Today’s choice is to mentor someone who is a minority in engineering.”

I found this NIH report, which answered some questions I had about exactly where the sensitive points are which might lead an otherwise motivated student to change fields, or even drop out, so I could kind of get an idea of, at what point, a successful mentoring relationship might be established.  As someone who is open and enjoys international interactions, I took a little offense at one sentence in the report that seemed to suggest that the foreign labor pool was taking “American” jobs in this field, and are less reliable.  I think they can be well represented in the  pool, but it is also because many countries have excellent training for college preparation, pressure to achieve, and few resources.  So, my strategy for engineering would be to get students at a young level who demonstrate an interest in figuring things out, making things work, and building things, and bring them up to the level of the foreign students.  I see one of my brothers, for example, who was probably born to be an engineer he is so adept at fixing things, and yet, he ended up with a degree in business, working in management, instead.  That may very well be what happens to many people who might have made great engineers.  And that’s ok too, if this is the direction they want to go.  Engineers are very often people who prefer working with objects to working with people.  The latter skill is usually necessary, but comes a little later.

Engineers, among other qualities, are people who are fundamentally good at managing constraint and precision.  These character traits can be trained and developed from a young age in kids who enjoy fixing things and figuring out how things work.  So, I think with all of this analysis, maybe a 6th grader who fixes her/his own bike when it breaks down, who knows how to mow a lawn and starts to take apart the lawn mower to figure out why it isn’t working right, or who enjoys building tree houses and forts, would be about the right age to start making sure that they develop the math skills that they will need to succeed as an engineer.  By the time they finish college, they will usually have had 3 semesters of calculus.   One should try to assess whether engineering curricula look like they might appeal to an individual, probably during high school.  It is probably possible to open up the amount of material that one learns in school, but basically engineers are usually people who graduate as great problem solvers, with a toolbox of useful approaches to problems in a very particular field.  One even went on to become a Pope! And yet another one, became an orthopedic surgeon, eventually becoming an astronaut in space.

I don’t think I am interested in having all of my mentees be so young (6th grade) for all fields, but for this particular field, I think the opportunity and aptitude manifest themselves at this age, and without attention to development, it becomes like trying to train a musician or ballerina in college without prior training.  That said, there are many people who have nurtured their aptitude for engineering without a formal degree, many people who are good at math but have been socialized for years to not work on bikes, lawn mowers, etc. despite their inclination to try.  In these cases, I am completely open to mentoring older adults who would like to get a formal certification.  In the end, someone who will have the approach that is required for engineering is someone who, when confronted with a new problem, does not react with: “Oh no, it’s broken!”, but instead fixes it with an attitude of: “Awesome, I get to make it better!”

Looking around on the internet for some ideas about how to select mentees, I came across some forms that some schools ask students to fill out.   Some people are comfortable with forms, others probably not.  I start thinking about what kinds of questions and answers might make a good fit for someone to be mentored by me.

  1. Does the individual love to learn new things?
  2. Does the individual want someone with more experience to sometimes ask questions, and seek advice from?  Will they take the advice sometimes, or are they so independent that they can’t accept input from anyone else in their life?
  3. Do they approach what interests them with a passion, or is summer vacation something that is a welcome interruption to learning?
  4. Can they spend an extra amount of time working on a project if it really interests them, or is it just work, homework, etc.?  i.e. something externally motivated and rewarded.

Mentor.py
#A python 2.6 program to help people think about diverse mentoring options.
#submitted by livedoggb 8/15/15
field=[‘science’, ‘computers’, ‘engineering’, ‘language’, ‘writing’, ‘religion’, ‘philosophy’, ‘archeology/exploration’, ‘medical’, ‘animal care/rights’, ‘farming’, ‘environmental activism’]
cat=[‘is in prison’, ‘has a disability’, ‘is international’, ‘is economically disadvantaged’, ‘is a minority’, ‘is Native American’, ‘is not disadvantaged’]
import random
print “Today’s choice is to mentor someone who “, cat[random.randrange(0, len(cat))], “in “, field[random.randrange(0, len(field))], “.”

Country.py
#A python 2.6 program to help people choose a country for constructive bridge building.
#submitted by livedoggb 8/15/15
field=[‘north america’, ‘south america’, ‘central america’, ‘caribbean’]
cat1=[‘canada’, ‘us’, ‘mexico’]
cat2=[‘argentina’, ‘bolivia’, ‘brazil’, ‘chile’, ‘colombia’, ‘ecuador’, ‘french guiana’, ‘guyana’, ‘paraguay’, ‘peru’, ‘suriname’, ‘uruguay’, ‘venezuela’]
cat3=[‘belize’, ‘costa rica’, ‘el salvador’, ‘guatemala’, ‘honduras’, ‘mexico’, ‘nicaragua’, ‘panama’]
cat4=[‘antigua’, ‘barbuda’, ‘aruba’, ‘bahamas’, ‘barbados’, ‘cayman islands’, ‘cuba’, ‘dominica’, ‘dominican republic’, ‘grenada’, ‘guadeloupe’, ‘haiti’, ‘jamaica’, ‘martinique’, ‘puerto rico’, ‘saint barthelemy’, ‘st. kitts’, ‘st. nevis’, ‘st. lucia’, ‘st. vincent’, ‘trinidad’, ‘tobago’, ‘turks and caicos islands’, ‘virgin islands’, ‘the grenadines’]
import random
region=field[random.randrange(0, len(field))]
if region==field[0]:
country=cat1[random.randrange(0, len(cat1))]
elif region==field[1]:
country=cat2[random.randrange(0, len(cat2))]
elif region==field[2]:
country=cat3[random.randrange(0, len(cat3))]
elif region==field[3]:
country=cat4[random.randrange(0, len(cat4))]
print “Today’s country is”, country, “\b.”

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