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Freshmen weren't the youngest students flocking to campus this week, as Philadelphia middle school students participated in Penn InnoWorks.

Middle school students from low-income areas in Philadelphia are taking part in Penn InnoWorks this week, an initiative run completely by undergraduate students that aims to inspire an educational interest in science and engineering.

The main goal of InnoWorks is to target low-income kids who can't afford to attend regular summer camp, according to Nancy Wang, an Engineering junior working with the students. The participants attend InnoWorks completely free of charge.

Thirty students were selected to attend the program this year after submitting applications that illustrated an interest in science and technology.

The program teaches students about the five senses through hands-on activities and experiments. These activities aim to make learning science fun through exercises that range from building miniature rockets to using a simple test on urine samples to identify diabetes.

Twelve-year-old Saria Cooper-Burk said she particularly loved learning about things that she "never even thought about before."

Likewise, 13-year-old Ayanna McNeil said she learned that "using your brain can actually be fun."

The program is run by undergraduate volunteers from all four Penn schools.

According to Wang, any Penn student could get involved with the program, even those who are not studying science-based subjects.

Engineering sophomore Timothy Hennelly, a volunteer, said he wanted to pass on his own experiences of a similar program that he attended when he was younger.

"They're a great bunch of kids," Hennelly said. "A little rambunctious, but enthusiastic when it comes to the learning part as well."

Started initially at Duke University, Innoworks now extends to 11 other universities across the United States. The program is always run by undergraduate students.

The Penn chapter was initiated in 2006 by Regina Cheng, who was director of the program for two years and graduated in 2008.

This year's program is directed by Abhi Hendi, an Engineering senior, with help from his deputy director, Wharton and Nursing junior Julian Liang.

Both Hendi and Liang emphasized how rewarding it was to work with economically disadvantaged middle school students, both having been Innoworks mentors in previous years.

This year's program was mostly sponsored through a grant from GlaxoSmithKline, a healthcare company, while the School of Engineering and Applied Science organized housing and equipment. The Graduate School of Education and Civic House also contacted middle schools to recruit InnoWorkers. Penn Dining, Lee's Hoagie House and Phoebe's BBQ provided much-needed sustenance through catering.

Both mentors and students say they have alike have benefitted a great deal from this program.

As 11 year-old Jamerr Womick put it, "Science can be more fun that you ever imagined."

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