Starting With a Vision
Transitioning from academics to the professional world can present a challenge for students as they embark on the search for meaningful employment. Debaleena Das, founder of STEM-Away® , understands this challenge. When first imagining STEM-Away® , Debaleena envisioned a platform that empowers students with real-world experiences. STEM-Away® aims to leverage technology to level the playing field and transform the way students gain skills and experience.
Today, STEM-Away® is a thriving online community that aims to bridge the gap between academia and industry by connecting students with professionals in STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. We had the opportunity to talk to Debaleena Das from STEM-Away® about how they have used Discourse to create a career hub for students and mentors.
Community Growth and Driving Factors
When reflecting on the growth of the STEM-Away® community and the changes that drove that growth, the founder shared their insights:
"STEM-Away® has experienced significant community growth, welcoming interns from over 400 colleges across 45+ countries, making our community truly global and diverse. One of the key changes we made was to shift our platform setup entirely towards project-centric collaborations. We continue to make improvements and iterate on our model to foster a vibrant and inclusive community where all students interested in STEM will have the opportunity to succeed in a STEM career."
After carefully evaluating different communication platforms, Debaleena found that Discourse stood out as the ideal choice for their organization. She explained, "Discourse's open-source nature, flexibility, scalability, and reliability were some of the key factors driving my decision."
Building online communities can be a complex task, especially when it involves accommodating the diverse preferences of users. Initially, STEM-Away® faced the challenge of students preferring Discord as their primary platform. In response, they adopted a hybrid approach, combining Discord and Discourse to strike a balance that kept students satisfied while still maintaining essential forum-related functionalities. However, the continuous updates and improvements to Discourse, specifically our chat feature, STEM-Away® may now be able to consolidate their community entirely within Discourse, providing a seamless and unified experience for their users.
Development Process and Integration of New Features
STEM-Away® 's process for developing new features or making improvements to Discourse involves integrating their patented technology for online resumes and AI-powered mentoring. Debaleena explained, "We developed several plugins to integrate our patented technology into the platform. We carefully consider whether to develop a plugin or use APIs to communicate with non-Discourse blocks, keeping simplicity as a guiding principle." STEM-Away® prioritized user feedback and needs to iterate and enhance their plugins, leveraging the flexibility of Discourse.
In terms of exciting upcoming developments, the founder shared their vision for integrating AI-powered mentorship and optimizing team formation:
"Our team is currently working on integrating the discussion forums with our very own STEM-Away® CAM (Conversational AI Mentor). This integration will enhance the user experience by providing AI-powered guidance and mentorship to our community members. Furthermore, we have also filed a patent for leveraging the QA sessions and follow-up forum discussions to optimize team formation and allocation of mentoring resources."
STEM-Away® 's use of Discourse as its communication platform has played a crucial role in connecting students to career opportunities. Its flexibility has allowed STEM-Away® to add new features. Its scalability allows for growth of the community. STEM-Away® empowers students around the world to gain real-world experience and collaborate with professionals in STEM fields. This case study showcases the impact of the Discourse platform in fostering a thriving community and driving the success of STEM-Away® 's mission to bridge the gap between academia and industry in STEM.