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STEM Mentoring Café

The critical shortage of females in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers demands a concentrated effort to inspire girls to follow STEM futures. Enter the STEM Mentoring Café. This program is an interagency effort to engage middle school students in STEM and their teachers with federal STEM professionals, through speed mentoring sessions and a commitment to ongoing mentoring from federal employees. By presenting federal scientists that those who are underrepresented in STEM can relate to, we aim to spark increased confidence for students to pursue STEM. The STEM Mentoring Café is run in partnership with Department of Education, National Girls Collaborative Project, the Association of Science- Technology Centers (ASTC), a global organization supporting science centers and learning, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that administers AmeriCorps.

Only a quarter of the STEM workforce is female, even though females make up over half of workers overall. Girls overwhelmingly say they are interested in STEM at young ages, but as they progress past middle school it is all too common for girls to opt out of STEM classes, choose not to major in STEM, and decide not to pursue STEM careers. Putting role models who look like them and can share insights into why STEM matters is a critical turning point to showing girls that STEM careers are achievable. Middle school is commonly identified as a turning point where interest in STEM changes - focusing on reaching middle school students is a way to gain exposure at that critical age.


At a STEM Mentoring Café, we recruit 5th through 8th grade students and their teachers to spend a few hours engaged in quick show-and-tell chats with federal employees in STEM careers and private sector STEM professionals, hosted at volunteer sites throughout the country.We are especially interested in reaching girls and female STEM professionals, to combat their underrepresentation in STEM.  However, this program is available to all interested students and STEM professionals. The STEM professionals move table to table to share how they got their start in STEM, what interests them the most about their job, what exciting projects they have currently, and why STEM matters to our society. Teachers are given take-home material, prepared by the Department of Energy's Education and Workforce Development team, to continue STEM learning in the classroom, and federal employees commit to serving an additional 20 hours annually as a mentor to students in their community. 


Oahu and Maui STEM Mentoring Cafes: The U.S Department of Energy Office of Economic Impact and Diversity has postponed the Hawaii STEM Mentoring Cafes in light of Congressman Takai's passing. Updated information will be posted once another date is identified. 


April 20, 2016 Oakland, California at Chabot Space and Science Center.

April 2, 2016 Houston, Texas at Children’s Museum of Houston.

March 12, 2016 Albuquerque, New Mexico at National Museum of Nuclear Science and History.

March 5, 2016 Denver, Colorado at Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

February 8, 2016, Washington, DC at the National Geographic Museum. Over 90 middle schools representing DC, Maryland and Virgina engaged with 20 STEM professionals. Read our blog post on the event.

November 14, 2015, New York City, New York, at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, 130 middle school students and STEM mentors engaged in one of our biggest Cafés to date. Read our blog post on the event.

October 27, 2015, Anchorage, Alaska, at the Anchorage Museum. Over 100 middle school students, representing at minimum 18 different schools and afterschool programs, and more than 20 STEM professionals were in attendance. Fields of specialization had a distinctly Alaskan flavor. For more details read the blog post written by the museum.

July 29, 2015, West Palm Beach, Florida, at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. Read the blog post from the museum.

June 13, 2015, Tampa, Florida at the Museum of Science and Industry. 40 middle school girls from Tampa Public Housing Authority met wtih mentors from NASA, Lowry Park Zoo, Verizon, and Tampa Electric Company. Read our blog post on the event.

May 16, 2015, Chicago, Illinois at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Over 100 students and thirty STEM professionals from Department of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory, Army Corps of Engineers, Navy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. See our Flickr album for photos.

April 22, 2015, Richland, Washington at the REACH museum. At this event, 17 STEM professionals from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and industry professionals served as mentors for 100 middle school students from the Tri-Cities area. Dot Harris, Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, delivered keynote remarks. Watch our highlight video.

On December 17, 2014, the second STEM Mentoring Café was held at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum's Q?rius center in Washington, D.C. 70 middle school students, 18 teachers, and nearly 45 federal STEM professionals from 13 federal agencies particpated. Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall delivered keynote remarks. Read our blog post from the event.

The first STEM Mentoring Café was held on May 19, 2014, at the Department of Education and co-hosted by the Department of Energy. Thirty female federal employees from seven agencies mentored eighteen teachers and nearly forty students in Washington, D.C. Read our blog post from the event.


The Department of Energy and the Association of Science-Technology Centers have selected the locations for the 2015-2016 STEM Mentoring Cafe series. Additional requests to host an event or learn more may be sent to

View our guide on planning and hosting a Cafe event.


Are you interested in becoming a mentor or role model? Brush up on some role model training to develop more skills to engage underrepresented individuals in STEM. Check out our training series launched in August 2015 to help give you resources and best practices for engaging with youth.

Virtual Trainings