What is InnoWorks?
InnoWorks is an innovative science and engineering initiative “By Students, For Students,” designed and implemented by college volunteers for middle-school students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It is the flagship program of United InnoWorks Academy (UIA), a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization founded in 2003. The primary goals of InnoWorks are to (1) provide students from underserved backgrounds with an opportunity to explore the real-world links among science and engineering disciplines, (2) promote teamwork, enthusiasm for learning, and career interests in science and engineering, (3) utilize cutting-edge neuroscience and educational research to develop mentoring and pedagogical methods that build problem-solving skills and student confidence, (4) harness higher-education expertise to benefit youth and foster the development of synergistic relationships between universities and communities, and (5) develop opportunities to inspire volunteerism, passion for service, and entrepreneurship in college students to prepare them as tomorrow’s educators, leaders, and role models.
InnoWorks is organized to leverage the grass-roots energy of university students to benefit local communities. It is unique among extracurricular educational programs for several reasons.
First, InnoWorks programs are offered entirely free of charge for all underserved students nominated by local school systems, including program materials, books, transportation, food, and awards.
Second, InnoWorks programs are developed and conducted by passionate college volunteers from around the country. Students bond well with their mentors and staff, looking up to them as older brothers and sisters. The mentors also felt InnoWorks helped them develop significantly as leaders, teachers, and communicators.
Third, InnoWorks curricula are created and tested by the volunteer leaders to “turn-on” middle-school students to learning and the “scientific” mindset. They are exceptionally modular, scalable, portable, and interdisciplinary, enabling students to understand connections among different scientific fields and how they relate to their own lives. We have published books (separate staff and student editions) capturing two curricula, “Making Sense of Senses” and “Explorations,” and are working on a third entitled “Dare to Discover.”
Finally, to optimize and personalize pedagogical methods, InnoWorks develops and evaluates novel adaptations of cutting-edge research by cognitive neuroscientists and educational psychologists as the foundation for creating versatile curricula and mentoring techniques that allow mentors to accommodate and challenge the specific learning preferences of each and every student. By helping students harness their learning strengths to overcome difficulties, learning becomes more profound and enjoyable.
In the low-stress, collaborative InnoWorks environment, students are very willing to take intellectual risks and open their minds. The exciting experience of being on a college campus with their mentors and the can-do learning attitude generated by InnoWorks inspired many to enthusiastically express a new desire to go to college—remarkable considering their family backgrounds.
InnoWorks provides an innovative method of bringing higher-education expertise to middle-school youth and fosters development of synergistic relationships between universities and communities. Moreover, the program offers a valuable opportunity for undergraduates to become involved in mentoring, teaching, and community outreach. InnoWorks aims to also help remedy the shortfall in future STEM2 educated individuals to enable continued science and engineering innovation. InnoWorks Founder William Hwang coined the term STEM2 (STEM^Squared) to include Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine to add attention to the importance of medical innovation to improve the longevity and quality of human lives.
Our vision is for InnoWorks to provide exciting educational opportunities for all students across the world. We intend to maintain relationships with InnoWorkers for life, inviting them to join as junior and then full mentors. If our mission is achieved, InnoWorks communities everywhere will be self-perpetuating, with each generation nurturing the next, connected by a common goal to improve society.