Mentors empower young people to make smart choices and put them on a path to making better life decisions. Jaden Baldwin does just that. A senior at the University of Central Florida studying Forensic Science, with a track in Biochemistry and a minor in Chemistry, Microbiology, and Psychology, Jaden is also a UCF COMPASS Mentor, a STEM Ambassador for the STEM department, and a VEX Robotics mentor and volunteer.
As a recently transitioning transgender male, Jaden found confidence, and a supportive community in robotics and STEM. “I found that I could share my voice and find acceptance by creating a feedback loop of interest, positivity, and enthusiasm which has helped build my confidence”, he said. “While I identify as male currently, I recognize that my upbringing in the STEM and robotics communities was as a girl and I’m happy to share my perspective,” said Jaden.
From a young age, Jaden was influenced by his own mentors in a way that’s shaped who he is today. “When I was 7, I decided that I wanted to ask questions and learn their answers for the rest of my life.” said Jaden.
When his middle school technology teacher recognized his potential and suggested he stay after school to work with their new competition team, that’s when Jaden’s interest sparked and ignited into something that’s still a driving force behind his education and career goals.
“The first time I took home an award for competitive robotics, was the moment I switched from doing the work that was asked of me to genuinely loving STEM.” said Jaden. Even if they didn’t win or take home an award, he still found great satisfaction in doing what he loved.
As a mentor, Jaden looks to support as many students as he can and teach them the value of understanding every side of a competition. “Spreading kindness and acceptance is always my goal.” said Jaden. When reflecting on his experience in VEX Robotics Competitions, he said, “I didn’t get lost in failure, I reveled in finding other teams who could be victorious. If they had a design that could beat mine, I wanted to congratulate them and find out how they accomplished their victory. ”
Inspired to promote inclusion and diversity at his University, Jaden is looking to implement a program to encourage openly queer (LGBTQ+ identifying) students to pursue STEM degrees. “Robotics and STEM should be about building everyone within the community up and valuing each person’s voice and opinions,” said Jaden about his initiative.
January is National Mentoring Month, and we’d like to recognize and celebrate Jaden for his strong leadership, mentoring skills, and commitment to working to making robotics and STEM an inviting and open place for everyone to learn and grow.