In grade school, my most important lessons were not from textbooks. The Magnet programs I attended were housed in schools predominately representing socioeconomically disadvantaged districts. Through sports, I got to know people from very diverse backgrounds. Broken homes and incarcerated father-figures went from being stories in the news to reality. Through their eyes, I saw the unseen hardships, unfair labeling, and lack of opportunities many of these “underprivileged” kids face. They were just as intelligent and hardworking, but faced bleak futures, unable to relate what they learned in school with their lives. Moreover, I was keenly aware that the country is on a collision course with a major shortfall of STEM-trained youth, which congressional leaders are calling a national crisis. Not only are disadvantaged groups underrepresented in STEM, but this whole population segment that could be contributing cannot because of a lack of opportunities. While organizing high school things my freshman year in college, a yearbook note from a close track teammate caught my eye. He was one of the most hard-working and genuine persons I knew, but because he hung out with the wrong crowd, he was held back several years and was on parole throughout high school. He had few role models and even fewer opportunities; thinking of him suddenly sparked in me a burning desire to do something—something to help others like him. Education is the key to the future. Extracurricular educational programs have changed, reshaped, and motivated me in amazing ways, helping me focus and see new and exciting possibilities. These programs are often out of reach for the underprivileged children that need them the most. I wanted to change that. I wanted to help them overcome their obstacles and share my passion for learning with them. InnoWorks (www.innoworks.org) was born. InnoWorks is an innovative science and engineering initiative “By Students, For Students,” designed by volunteer college undergraduates for grade-school students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The flagship program of the non-profit United InnoWorks Academy (UIA), it is intended to inspire lifelong enthusiasm towards learning in general and science in particular. 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 underprivileged 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, mentors, 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 captured these curricula in two sets of books (separate mentor and student versions) and are developing a third. 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. 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. The year 2007 marks the fourth year of InnoWorks. We have successfully conducted five summer programs for over 200 students and benefited from the contributions of over 250 volunteers. We currently have seven chapters: Duke University, University of Maryland College Park, University of Arizona, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland Baltimore Campus, Univerisity of Michigan, and College of the Bahamas (Nassau, Bahamas). We anticipate having well over 200 students at our programs in the summer of 2007. We are constantly receiving inquiries from people interested in starting new chapters from as far away as Effat College, Saudi Arabia. InnoWorks has been profiled by CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, Duke News & Communication, The Herald Sun, Duke Chronicle, UANews, Duke Dialogue, Maryland Gazette, Arizona Daily Star, DukEngineer Magazine, and was featured on the 2005-2006 Duke Basketball Halftime TV Spot.