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The InventXYZ mentors are Founder and CEO Nikil Ragav (left), Curriculum Developer Chris Zhu (center), and Teaching Assistant Will Morgus (right). (Photo from Nikil Ragav)

After the coronavirus pandemic began interfering with students’ summer plans, leaving many with ample free time, some Penn students ventured to create organizations that provide online educational opportunities for young students.

Wave Learning Festival is a free, online learning platform for which college students volunteer to teach classes on a variety of topics to K-12 students. The platform is an intercollegiate effort, with students from Penn, Harvard University, Massachusets Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and Carnegie Mellon University leading the organization. 

Rising Engineering and Wharton junior Joshua Chen, associate director of marketing for Wave Learning Festival, said the student volunteers are encouraged to teach classes about what they are passionate about, whether their interest is academic or non-academic. Some classes include “How to be Persuasive: An Intro to the Art of Public Speaking," "Coffee, Caffeine, Drinks, and the Environment," "How Cancer Works," and “Introduction to Macedonian Language.” 

Chen, who was brought onto the platform's founding team shortly after students at multiple universities came up with the idea, said Wave Learning Fest gained traction this spring when the founders realized the COVID-19 pandemic caused college students to lose their internships, younger students to have their summer programs canceled, and created a need for working parents to occupy their children. Chen said this created a great opportunity for them to help struggling families. 

Since March, when Wave Learning Festival was founded, Chen said the team has increased course offerings and recruited more students to teach and take classes. 

The first wave of classes took place in May, with 11 classes for 450 students, said Rising Engineering junior and associate director of logistics for Wave Learning Festival Amy Shen. 

Each wave is a two-week time period during which a certain class is offered, although some classes run for multiple waves. The second wave, which runs from June 15 to June 26, will include 26 classes for 550 students, Shen said.

The enrollment outcome was a pleasant surprise for the team, which Chen said did not expect to reach as many students as early as the platform ultimately attracted.

Another newly created educational venture, inventXYZ, founded by 2020 Engineering and Wharton graduate Nikil Ragav, is also offering remote learning opportunities for high school students this summer. 

Ragav won the 2020 President's Engagement Prize for inventXYZ, which aims to empower future inventors by creating collaborative, high-tech workspaces in high schools across the nation. The President's Engagement Prize was awarded to eight students last year, and winners were given up to $100,000 to implement their projects. 

Ragav said he originally planned to use this summer to pilot some of inventXYZ's integrative curriculum proposals in Pennsylvania schools, but said the pandemic instead forced the company to focus on remote programs and partnerships. 

High school students who sign up for the inventXYZ summer program, which costs $499, build three engineering projects under the mentorship of a college teaching assistant over the course of six weeks. 

The hands-on projects include creating a COVID-19 simulator that visualizes the spread of the virus, building and coding the Pong game, and coding an autopilot car controller. Students learn skills of data visualization, electronics prototyping, and simulation and programming languages such as Python and C++.

Like the model of Wave Learning Festival, Ragav said he sought passionate Penn students to teach his programs. Instead of just asking high school students to sign up, however, he is also reaching out to high schools in Pennsylvania to target the program to local students and give back to the community. 

Ragav said the high schools are sending the company's remote program information to all of their students and parents. Every student that signs up using the school’s coupon code gets $50 off the program, and in return, inventXYZ donates $50 to the school, which the school can use however they choose to.

Ragav added that he still hopes to find a way to pilot his curriculum in schools before moving towards a more complete version of his vision as coronavirus prevention restrictions are lifted.

According to Shen and Chen, Wave Learning Festival is not sure what the program will look like in the fall just yet, but they know they want the platform to continue. 

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