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bp volunteers connect with students through online STEM mentoring

Release date:
11 September 2020
How do you inspire students from the other side of a computer screen? As many STEM learning programs pivoted to online formats this summer, bp volunteers share how they helped give students a virtual view into the world of science, technology, engineering and math

At-home engineering


More than 50 bp employees volunteered with the National Society of Black Engineers’ annual Summer Engineering Experience for Kids, which was held virtually for the first time this year. The three-week camp consisted of weekly challenges and activities to help third through fifth graders learn what it takes to be an engineer. 


Because of its online format, this year’s program was able to expand beyond cities like Houston and Chicago, ultimately reaching more than 1,300 students across three countries. 


“We asked: How can we deliver this program remotely and still make an impact?” says Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, safety & operational risk upstream assurance lead. “In addition to meeting with students virtually to talk about engineering principles and offer guidance on their work, many bp volunteers spent their weekends judging their projects and providing feedback.”

Child builds houses with Popsicle sticks as part of an online STEM project.

Virtual mentoring 


John-Patrick Akinyemi, IT business analyst, continued his work helping a team of high school students finish their project for the Offshore Technology Conference’s annual Energy Challenge, even after the trade show was canceled. 

He says the key to shifting mentorship from in-person interactions to emails and video calls was being approachable and keeping the lines of communication open. 


“When I didn’t hear from the team, I’d reach out to check on them,” says John-Patrick. “It helped remind them that I was still there to help. Sending a simple message to see how they were doing often led to more in-depth discussions.” 


Continuing the conversation 


In January, geologist Caitlin Orem and other bp volunteers hosted an event with Houston-area Girl Scouts at the company’s US headquarters, giving them a firsthand look at what engineers and geologists do in the energy industry. As the team began working from home a few months later, they explored how they could stay in touch with the young women to continue encouraging them to pursue STEM careers. 


They developed a series of online sessions covering topics including the wide range of STEM career opportunities and what it’s like being a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. As everyone adjusted to working and learning from home, they decided to keep the virtual conversations candid and casual. 


“Most of the bp volunteers already knew each other, so we were having a good time on our calls while also being informative and showing the girls what it’s really like to work in STEM,” says Caitlin. “We were looking to support the camaraderie that Girl Scouts is all about.”