Improving Science Education Through Innovation: Bringing sustainable hands-on science and engineering experiments and instructions to the developing world, to improve their communities and address their educational needs.
Problem Millions of children in the U.S. and abroad lack access to science and engineering education. It is crucial that grade-school children gain adequate exposure to the sciences because time dedicated to elementary science education has been correlated to a country’s economic growth.
Context Africa unfortunately has one of the poorest educational systems worldwide. In South Africa, 40% of children do not finish primary school. While there are many reasons why few children in Africa are interested in science, the strongest barrier for many others is the lack of resources in scientific education and ill-equipped science laboratories at their primary and secondary schools.
Solution We are working with United InnoWorks Academy to develop a state-of-the-art science and engineering kit in a highly portable and affordable format, called the InnoBox. As a complete educational kit with multimedia training tools for teachers and mentors, project guides for student teams, scientific equipment and supplies, and self-assessment instruments for over 50 different UIA program projects, the InnoBox will be optimal as an educational tool for limited-resource environments. The experiments promote collaboration in student teams and many emphasize projects that result in a useful device that can benefit their community, such as water purifiers and electric generators. We plan to implement our InnoBox kits in a partnering middle school in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
Provide a multidisciplinary exposure of science and engineering to over 300 students from at least 3 primary and secondary schools in South Africa.
Ambar Mehta Primary Contact/Team Leader Ambar Mehta is a junior undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in Materials Sciences and Engineering, and Biology. Upon graduating, he plans to pursue an MD-MPH degree. Ambar has always been involved in community service ever since high school, where he and his brother designed and began implementing a microcredit program for transgendered individuals in New Delhi, India. At MIT, he has been actively involved in Camp Kesem and is the founder and director of the MIT InnoWorks Chapter. He was recently inducted into the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society. Ambar will serve as the Project Leader for the InnoBox initiative. His role in designing the InnoBox kit involves analyzing and organizing the experiments, modifying them to minimize the number of necessary materials to be included in the kit, and implementing the kit. He will also help create the multimedia DVD and curriculum that will accompany the kit.
William L. Hwang William L. Hwang is a third year student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences & Technology MD-PhD program. A Rhodes Scholar and Goldwater Scholar, William completed his MSc in Chemistry at the University of Oxford with Professor Hagan Bayley. William’s work has been published in 14 journal articles/conference proceedings, 3 books, and 2 book chapters. William studied at Duke University on an Angier B. Duke full merit scholarship. At Duke, he triple-majored in Biomedical Engineering (BME), Physics, and Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE) with a minor in Chemistry, and graduated first in his class with distinction by thesis in both BME and ECE. To provide underprivileged children with an opportunity to explore science and engineering, he founded United InnoWorks Academy (www.innoworks.org), a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization in 2003. Serving as Executive Director for the past 8 years, William has orchestrated the growth of InnoWorks to include over 600 dedicated college volunteers who have mentored and nurtured more than 1500 underprivileged students at twelve international InnoWorks chapters. InnoWorks was selected as a 2007 BRICK Award winner, dubbed “the Oscars of youth service awards” by CNN. William has been recognized for his community service with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for excellence of character and outstanding commitment to humanitarian service, William J. Griffith University Service Award, and Student Affairs Distinguished Leadership. William will serve as the Strategic Director for the InnoBox project. In this role, he will coordinate the efforts of the MIT InnoWorks chapter with the United InnoWorks Academy nonprofit organization, acquire funding to support the project, form partnerships with the schools and programs that will implement the InnoBox project, and develop assessment tools to enable ongoing evaluation of the project and ideas for improvement.
Jennifer Li Jennifer Li is a first-year undergraduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is majoring in Biology. She is currently doing research as a UROP in Prof. Sharp's lab. Jennifer is the curriculum officer for the MIT InnoWorks chapter and the community service chair for the MIT Alpha Chi Omega sorority. In high school, Jennifer founded the Enloe High School National ScienceDays chapter, which is dedicated to teaching elementary students science using hands-on science experiments, and was also a Junior Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences. For her volunteer work, she won the National ScienceDays Organization Distinguished Director Award and the USA Freedom Corps President's Volunteer Service Award Bronze Level. Jennifer is a team member and will work on developing the InnoBox curriculum and lesson plans.
Nischay Kumar Nischay Kumar is a third-year undergraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a concentration in Computer Science and minoring in Management. Nischay was involved in adding the new engineering based experiments to the InnoBox curriculum. He is also a Director of the finance focus group in the Sloan Business Club (SBC), as well as the Risk Manager for the Phi Beta Epsilon Fraternity. In high school, Nischay was heavily involved in science and engineering; he was the founder and captain of his high school’s US First Robotics team. He was also involved in Science Olympiad and conducted research on an integration platform for optical circuits. His research partner and he competed in the Intel Science and Engineer Fair and won 2nd Place for the team physics projects. He is a current member of the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society and Kairos Society. Nischay is a team member and will work on developing the InnoBox curriculum and lesson plans.
United InnoWorks Academy
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 underprivileged 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.
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