This Research to Practice Full Paper (Part I) presents a comprehensive Academic Success and Professional Development (ASAP) mentoring-scholarship program framework - built on a community of practice (consisting of learners and faculty-industry-peer mentors) - that uses career-steering/shaping projects as a central tool to motivate and train engineering students for the many challenges/opportunities before them. Key organizational principles, themes, activities and instruments driving the Arizona State University (ASU) program are described. While currently focusing on upper-division transfer students, the program (supported by NSF/industrial funding since 2001) also serves upper-division non-transfers and some graduate students. Data for the most recent cohort of 74 scholars shows how different groups were impacted by key program activities/instruments. The data shows that projects - specifically our 'interest paper' - can prepare students for many critical activities; e.g. choosing a technical area, career planning, choosing potential employers, preparing for a career fair, getting a paid project/internship, career planning, preparing for graduate school, preparing for the engineering workforce, the ongoing technological revolution, problems of national importance, and lifelong learning. While this paper (Part I) focusses on the program and how career-steering/shaping projects can be used to prepare engineering students, Part II provides a case study for 14 scholars conducting funded research projects.