Mentoring a Team

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Although the Space Settlement Design Competition was developed for participation by high school students, it is possible for non-students to provide assistance by mentoring participating student teams. This type of involvement in the Competition is recommended as an activity for Chapters or Sections of technical societies, and business or civic groups. Individuals who decide to mentor teams are advised to recognize this involvement as a serious responsibility, and to stay with the team until either the proposal has been submitted or the students on the team decide to discontinue the relationship. Mentors can do just about anything to help the team with the project, except that the students must do the actual design.

Usually the first step in the mentoring process is to find a teacher at a local high school who is interested in sponsoring a team of students in the Competition. This needn’t be a big commitment for the teacher; mentors can do much of the work. It is the teacher’s responsibility to inform students about this opportunity, gather the students into a team, and assure that the school administration is supportive of the Competition.

Incidentally, sometimes classes (especially Physics classes) will compete, and use the Competition as a class project. Indeed, Competition materials are being successfully used to teach classes in both high school and college curricula. We know of some teams that have been mentored by an adult without assistance from a teacher in the school, although this is unusual.

Once the team is assembled, mentors can do some or all of the following to help:

  • Every competing team must register to get the Final RFP, and mentors can help with this by facilitating the registration process.
  • When the Final RFP arrives, mentors can go through it with the students and help them interpret what their design must do.
  • Mentors can help the students put together a requirements matrix to make sure they completely satisfy the design requirements.
  • Mentors can help students find information that will be useful to them in preparing their design.
  • Mentors can help the team plan and schedule their work to complete the 40-page written report describing their design by the deadline.
  • Like a real manager in industry, a mentor can assist communication processes between students doing different parts of the design, so that all of the components are compatible.
  • Mentors can help students learn how to manage themselves.
  • Mentors can help the team develop a report format that will get all of the design details into the page limit.
  • Mentors can review and critique the team’s work, and advise them of design deficiencies to correct.
  • Mentors can help the team email their final product.
  • After the proposal has been submitted to the judges, and while the team is waiting for the judges’ selection of the twelve Finalist teams, it would be useful to help the students develop a briefing describing the Qualifying Competition design, and to help them learn effective presentation techniques.
  • Mentors may not, however, help with the design itself, or provide design ideas.
  • And, if your team is one of the team that earns an invitation to the next round of the Competition, mentors can help the students get publicity, raise funds for the trip, and get prepared for an invigorating and exhausting three-day design and briefing ordeals.