Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center
Julio Mendez Sr. is a physics and engineering teacher, and robotics coach, at Von Steuben Metropolitan Science Center, from where is eldest graduated in 2018 and his second child is graduating in 2020. He is passionate about reaching students who have given up on science and opening up the doors of science and engineering to diverse students, who have been traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields, at all levels. He has worked with a non-profit, Project SYNCERE for 6 years in bringing after school, Saturday and summer programs to Chicago’s south side, where he grew up and understands the lack of pathways into the STEM fields. He is a member of the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) Multicultural/Equity Committee, where they work hard to address the inequity of science education throughout the nations different communities, from urban to rural, and all the varied socio-economic circumstances, through engagement and education of science teaching professionals at all levels. He works with the Smithsonian Science Education Center in an initiative to diversify the STEM teacher workforce, to more reflect the changing face of the students in our country’s schools and to promote the retention of said teachers, through the mentoring of teams of administrators and teacher leaders who are implementing plans of action within their schools or districts.
As a newly appointed Chairperson of the Engineering dept at Von Steuben, Julio is bringing a new vision of “Inspiration: All students can become engineers” to the school’s program, by creating partnerships with professional engineering associations, such as creating a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers(others to come). Von Steuben is creating a pathway for young women to become engineers starting at the middle school level. Along with offering field trip opportunities to local engineering university programs and professional engineering partners’ facilities, and having speaker panels for the engineering students to interact with the people who are in the fields today, students will be able to get a personal connection to the possibilities of becoming engineers.
Before working with Dr. Mathew’s lab, alongside Kai Yuan Cheng (PhD candidate) Julio did not have any formal research experience in a science lab. The intensity of the depth of knowledge and the cutting edge work being done in Dr. Mathew’s lab is impressive and very difficult to translate to the highschool level. However with the help of Dr. Mathew and Kai, Julio has been able to create a unit plan that will translate from his experiences with science to the physics classrooms and the work done by the physics students will then be used to introduce a unit to the engineering students for a final project.
The physics students will engage with joint and bone injuries to explore the concepts of free body diagrams, forces and an unbalanced system, and science research around the use of metals as engineered joint replacements, creating a final report. This final report will then be used by the freshman engineering students to create their own joint replacements, through the engineering process and final designs will be 3D printed and their product presented, in a mock bidding for a contract to produce replacement joints.