“Near-Peer:” Mentoring Program Connects Mechanical Engineering Students with High School Mentees

Two SJSU Mechanical Engineering Senior Project teams have been working with Independence High School (IHS) in San Jose's East Side in a “Near-Peer” mentoring program that connects high school students with university mechanical engineering seniors. This is the 4th year of this collaboration, which focuses on automotive technology and has mutually benefited the mentors and mentees. Furthermore, the program has inspired many of the high school students to apply to schools of higher education, several of whom specifically enrolled at SJSU.

Mechanical Engineering professor James Mokri leads this program to face the challenge of preparing high school and university students for local high-skill careers in the automotive technology field. Future vehicles will fit the ACES acronym of Autonomous, Connected, Electric, and Shared, all a part of a new smart transportation system.

IHS student David Chau had a love affair with cars, so when he enrolled at Independence High School, he went straight to teacher Sorin Neagu’s highly-regarded automotive technology classes. In addition to learning about engine components and brakes, David participated in a “Near-Peer” mentoring program where students from Neagu’s class worked with SJSU ME students completing their senior capstone projects. Through the design,
build and test activities, and brief classroom lectures, the SJSU students mentored IHS students on strength of materials, machine design, mechatronics, and electrical systems. David is now a sophomore at San Jose State.
 
In the 2018-2019 academic year, the student teams have partnered with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to address two labor-intensive bus maintenance issues, the solutions of which could be applied to more than 200 transit buses. The mentees are helping with the material fabrication, assembly and testing in the HIS shop, which relieves the limited Senior Project Lab space at SJSU.
 
The STEM career pathways for high school students and the SJSU Senior Design project are helping to build a sustainable channel of locally-sourced Silicon Valley talent to fuel the region’s growth in the advanced transportation sector.