Meet a STEM Mentor Pair: Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon

May 5, 2011

Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon photo by Caurie Putnam

by Caurie Putnam, coordinator, STEM Mentor Program

From time to time The STEM Blog profiles pairs from the STEM Mentor Program – an innovative collaboration between The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (RACCEMS) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

This program matches adults with a career, education, or interest in science, technology, education, or math (STEM)  with 4th, 5th, and 6th graders from the Rochester area.  STEM Mentor pairs – also called “Bigs” and ”Littles” –  meet once a month to engage in a STEM related activity or outing. 

All STEM Mentors first go through the thorough background check and training process to become a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

Big Brother Jim and Little Brother Raajon, age 9,  have been part of the STEM Mentor Program since its inception in Fall 2009.  The pair is extremely active in the program and enjoy doing STEM activities both with the group and together – often far exceeding the requirement of one STEM interaction a month.

For example, here are the STEM activities the pair did in March 2011: 1)  Created a paper mache solar system 2)  Attended a HO Model Train Display  3)  Played a computer game where Raajon was a “surgeon” operating on patient (30 minute limit) 4) Played chess 5)  Cooked a dinner – Raajon helped with the measuring

Jim and Raajon at the Corning Museum of Glass in December 2010

Over the course of their time in the program Raajon’s interest and enthusiasm towards STEM involved activities has flourished.   

Here is an example of his excitement as Jim recalls their visiting the Rochester Museum and Science Center this month for Opening Night of the Dinosaur exhibit:

Raajon was so excited he couldn’t eat his dinner beforehand, and couldn’t eat much of the snacks [at the museum] — but nevertheless he bounded and bounced back and forth through the exhibits for 2 and 1/2 hours.

Another great example was Raajon’s own quote as he was driving with Jim and his wife to the Corning Museum of Glass for a fun-filled day of science in December. Before they even arrived at the museum Raajon said:

This day has already been great!  Why, already we have seen seven [science] things:  hawks, road kill, three live deer, cows, horses, a salt mine [he remembered RMSC’s multi-media presentation on the American Salt Company] and a cheese factory! 

As the coordinator of the STEM Mentor program I’ve had the opportunity to witness many wonderful interactions between Jim and Raajon where Raajon’s eyes light up with excitement during a discovery. Jim is constantly encouraging Raajon to ask questions, dig deeper, and think like a scientist. Here is a wonderful example of that in Jim’s words:

Raajon likes to ride with the car window down, and noticed the intermittent “whoosh” sound when our car passes parked cars.  His two partial hypotheses: because there’s air between the cars, and because the street is wet which makes more noise.  I acknowledged that each had something to do with it, but challenged him to find a more complete explanation before July 4th.  He liked the challenge very much.  

Thank you to Jim and Raajon for adding so much to the STEM Mentor Program and allowing me to share their story!

If you are interested in learning more about the program please email Caurie Putnam, program coordinator, at

Raajon engineering a tower at the RMSC provided photo


STEM Mentor Program Visits U of R’s Optics Program

December 31, 2010

Members of the STEM Mentor Program and the University of Rochester's Department of Optics

Recently, the University of Rochester’s doctoral program in Optics hosted members of the STEM Mentor Program. 

The STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Math) Mentor Program is an innovative partnership between  The Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science (The Center) and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Rochester.

STEM Bigs (who have an interest/education/or career in STEM fields) and Littles (whom are in grades 4-6) visited the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics in Goergen Hall for a highly interactive afternoon of optics fun. 

Doctoral students working with Professor Andrew Berger presented “Optics is Everywhere” – showing the Littles that, indeed, the field of optics is something they experience everyday. They also got to experiences aspects of optics they never had before, such as looking at their skin via a heat imaging camera.

A huge thank you to Dr. Berger and his students for sharing their passion with the STEM Mentor Program.  It was a wonderful opportunity for the Littles not only to learn about Optics, but to visit a university campus and to see a diverse group of scientists at work (and play!)

Enjoy these photos that capture the spirit of the day.

Littles from the STEM Mentor Program at their "Optics is Everywhere" presentation


Article and photos by Caurie Putnam – Coordinator of the STEM Mentor Program –