Student engineers mentor underprivileged children weekly through SEEK

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Student engineers at UT are partnering with local elementary and middle schools to mentor children and help them explore potential careers in STEM. Student Engineers Educating Kids is a student-led organization at UT which sends members weekly to lower-income primary schools in the Austin area.

The organization’s mission is to promote the possibility of an engineering education to students who might not have the exposure otherwise. The students serve as mentors to children and lead them through STEM-based activities. The activities also teach student engineers to be effective communicators and leaders, SEEK president Cynthia Chu said.

Gaurav Garg is a sophomore chemical engineering major who joined SEEK in August. Every Wednesday, he drives to Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and works on projects with middle schoolers.

“I joined SEEK because I wasn’t exposed to engineering when I was younger, and I understand that the children at this school are even less likely to have that exposure,” Garg said. “When I guide (the kids) through fun activities like building a marble roller coaster, they realize that engineering involves using your imagination to make things. I think that’s when they start to warm up to the idea of becoming an engineer.”

SEEK can be a student’s first exposure to the field of engineering, especially in areas of lower socioeconomic status, Chu said.

King Hancock, a sixth grader at the leadership academy, said SEEK sparked his interest in engineering.

“I didn’t know a lot about engineering before SEEK,” King said. “Last week, we built a robotic hand … I’m thinking about doing mechanical engineering when I’m older, maybe at UT.”

SEEK aims to be more than a volunteering opportunity for its members by training students in essential skills that aren’t found in a classroom.

Victoria Milosek, program officer at the leadership academy, said the communications skills engineering students learn through this program are essential to their professional success.

“Our members are taking really hard math and science classes right now,” Milosek said. “To be able to get away from all that for a little bit and explain some basic science to kids can be a very valuable experience for them. It helps them put their classes into perspective and become more effective communicators.”