Duke InnoWorks

January 3, 2022
Research Archives

By Maggie Locke, published in our 2015-16 issue

One week before Duke University’s new freshman class moves in to their dorms, campus is already brimming with excitement and anxiety. Students chatter excitedly as they set up catapults in teams and compete against one another. A closer look reveals that these students are not college students. The enthusiastic force behind these innovative science experiments are, in fact, Durham’s local middle school students led by Duke undergraduate mentors. As part of the annual InnoWorks summer program at Duke, Durham middle schoolers attend an all-expense-covered program of exploration into science and technology organized by Duke undergraduate students. The program offers a unique opportunity for disadvantaged students to engage with cutting-edge research at Duke and draw inspiration to pursue STEM subjects later into their high school and college years.

During a typical day at Duke InnoWorks, teams of four middle school students each guided by a Duke undergraduate mentor complete scientific missions ranging from building solar cookers to dissecting sheep brains. They attend two daily lectures on leading developments in the scientific field given by Duke undergraduates as well. InnoWorks has grown to be an organization “for students, by students” providing an invaluable experience for Durham’s young scientists.

Founded in 2005 by Duke alum William Hwang, InnoWorks has since grown to become a national organizing comprised of fourteen chapters at Boston University, Caltech, MIT, Johns Hopkins, University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. All of InnoWorks’ chapters meet regularly to develop curricula and coordinate the summer program. Three books containing curricula and science experiments have already been published, and the team is working on a fourth. The United InnoWorks Academy is also growing and expanding to more institutions of higher learning, making science research fun and accessible to students of all backgrounds.

The 2016 InnoWorks summer camp at Duke University will be held from August 15th to August 19th. Disadvantaged middle school students from the Durham area are encouraged to contact their school counselors for applications and more information. Any questions about the 2016 summer program may be directed to duke@innoworks.org.

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