Get Involved!

Mentor Guide

Do you enjoy working with kids? Want to give back to Chicago’s future innovators and entrepreneurs?

You Can’t BeWhat You Can’t See.

Inspire the next generation of inventors by sharing your experience and passion for your industry, giving feedback on student projects, and supporting student skill-building!

Site Mentors donate approximately 2-5 hours over the course of a 10-week curriculum supporting student engagement in a CSIC classroom, library, or youth center. In-person and virtual options are available.

Individual Mentors donate approximately 1-2 hours of time supporting a single student whose invention could benefit from more specialized support or students who want additional feedback as they prepare to compete at US Nationals.

Every professional can promote the guiding principles of the Invention Convention:

  • Empower students to express their ideas and gain confidence in themselves through showing that you value their ideas
  • Give every student opportunities to use their imagination and practice creative problem solving

  • Engage students in the scientific/invention process and develop their interests in STEM, invention, and entrepreneurship

  • Invest in students that will become our future leaders and innovators

“My favorite part in the process is when they think they have an idea and then realize something about it isn’t quite working, so they pivot to an even better idea.”

-Laura Gladfelter, Blue Cross Blue Shield

Mentor Checklist

To mentor with the program, you should relate to the following criteria:


Example fields include (but are not limited to):

  • Business
  • Consumer Services/Consumer
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Engineering
  • Healthcare
  • IT and Communications
  • Science and Technology

Be local to the Chicagoland region (Cook, Kane, Will, Lake, McHenry, or Dupage county)


Ability to pass a name check or background check, depending on site requirements


Ability to commit approximately 2-5 hours between December-March for mentoring


Completion of a brief online training video to learn more about mentoring


Willingness to communicate with lead educator to discuss expectations


Flexibility to work around the class or educator schedule to coordinate communication


Interest in judging at the annual invention competition in the spring

“It’s a lot of fun! The student ideas are awesome, and it’s really rewarding to be able to help them develop entrepreneurial ideas since it’s such a passion of mine.”
-Matthew Moheban, 220 Leadership

Becoming A Mentor

Select Your Preferred Site

Apply to become a mentor. Once approved, you will select your preferred site from the current available options of schools, libraries, or youth centers that are participating in the CSIC program. You also have the option to pursue an in-person or a virtual option at many sites.

Site Match and Clearance

Specific types of sites have requirements prior to starting your classrooms visits. Examples include:

  • Chicago Public Schools (CPS) volunteers will be reviewed for a Name Check. We help guide you through the easy online process, with results back in 3-4 days.
  • Chicago Public Libraries require fingerprinting for new volunteers at City Hall.
  • Youth centers, charter and private schools, and non-CPS public schools all have unique requirements

Refer to official CSIC correspondence to take action on specific requirements needed for your particular site.

Connect with the Educator

Reach out to your matched educator to share expectations, scheduling logistics, and any other requirements you may both have about the mentorship experience.

Mentor in a CSIC site

Mentors work with a whole class of students by visiting sites and guiding classroom discussions and activities.

As a Mentor, your role is twofold. You will encourage and guide students on the invention process. In addition, you will also share insights about your career as a professional in your field and explain how your work impacts the world.

Some possible mentoring models to consider: on-site school visits, office hours , speaking engagements, leading ideation exercises or industry case studies, hosting or connecting schools to organized events at your work, and more!

“I love seeing the kids try to understand how this thing is supposed to work and getting excited as things begin to work incrementally.”

-Leslie McKinney, Black Women in Science and Engineering

Program Timeline

September – OctoberTeacher orientation, no action required from mentors
November - DecemberRegister to become a mentor
  • Indicate your preferred site and available schedule
  • Complete required screening documents (varies per site)
  • Receive your classroom match
  • Coordinate with the educator to:
  • Discuss expectations
  • Schedule the first visit, and subsequent visits
  • Meet students and begin mentoring (minimum 5 hours throughout program)
  • Meet students and begin mentoring
  • Assist with school’s local Invention Convention (optional)
  • Complete mid-program survey
April - May
  • Judge inventions at regional Chicago Student Invention Convention (optional)
  • Complete post-program Survey

“Their creativity! It’s incredible how much imagination they have when they haven’t seen the limits and constraints that adults have experienced. I wish we could all adapt their mindset!”

Maddy Rutter, TechNexus