When Jacob Lim first signed on to be a NXplorers mentor, he wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Run as an annual competition in partnership with Science Centre Singapore, Shell’s NXplorers programme is a global, innovative educational STEM initiative for youth aged 14 to 19. It seeks to enthuse, empower and equip students with the tools and skills to explore issues, create preferred future scenarios and bring about positive change to real-world issues associated with the food, water and energy nexus. Each year, the nation-wide programme sees between over 90 to 100 secondary school student teams participate and challenge themselves to reimagine the world, with the guidance of Science Centre educators and volunteer mentor from Shell.
At the start of the programme, Jacob and his student team participated in workshops which introduced them to the NXplorers toolkit – a series of tools designed specifically to allow participants to develop their critical thinking. The tools help participants view and solve problems differently, and connect education with application, equipping students to apply their learning and make ideas real.
The training itself was an eye-opener for Jacob, who has always looked for opportunities to be a mentor. “It requires a certain level of commitment and thinking from both parties, which typically leads to a deeper level of connection”, he says.
“This was what NXplorers offered. Before each session, I would do some prep work by looking at their current status and come ready to help them look at what’s working, and what areas needed a bit more thinking.”
As a Business Analyst in Shell Chemicals, Jacob’s day-to-day work involves looking at different angles and connecting the dots. He took this onboard in his mentoring process as well, finding opportunities to encourage the students into think more creatively and critically. As he was unable to meet them in person due to COVID-19, he had to find innovative ways of explaining via video calls.
“At the end of the day, I want to walk away knowing that I’ve made an impact, by seeing how my words have altered their thinking, rather than being someone who is just there to provide information.”
Although Jacob’s team did not make it to the finals this year, the enthusiastic feedback he has received from his students has encouraged him to sign up again for 2021. Building on his learning from 2020, he has also spent time since the programme ended collecting tips and feedback from current and previous mentors. Come next year, he intends to take his team all the way to the podium!
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