MIT Sandbox (short for MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program) provides meaningful seed funding of up to $25,000 for student-initiated ideas, mentoring from within MIT and from a broad network of committed partners, and tailored educational experiences.

Our Approach

“Sandbox isn’t a competition, and it isn’t about picking winners,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of MIT’s School of Engineering and the faculty director of the program. “It’s about creating opportunities for any MIT student interested in learning about innovation through doing.”

MIT Sandbox is…

  • accessible to all 11,000 MIT graduate and undergraduate students. It is not organized as a contest that “picks winners.”
  • designed to fit within the traditional university experience—helping students pursue independent ideas—and to be synergistic with classwork and research activities.
  • not solely about start-ups MIT Sandbox is designed to reflect the breadth of pathways through which our students and alums have an impact on the world.
  • a flexible model that can support student innovation on their schedules.
  • mentor-focused, as students and/or student teams are matched with an independent mentor and given personalized curricula to ensure they are well supported to carry their project forward.
  • an opportunity for real-world experience in moving their ideas to impacts through: funding to discrete milestones based on specific budgets and presentations for funding and re-investment decisions.


Jinane Abounadi, Executive Director

Jinane AbounadiJinane Abounadi is Executive Director of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program. She brings a unique combination of experiences, from academic research to senior operational and strategic roles in start-up companies and large businesses. After completing her graduate work, she worked as a research scientist at BBN and as a postdoctoral lecturer at MIT, and advised undergraduate and graduate students. She held leadership roles in two of the most successful local Boston area start-ups, ITA Software and Kayak, where she gained deep knowledge about the travel technology sector. Most recently, she ran a global portfolio of 3rd party products for Travelport, giving her the opportunity to establish partnerships with companies across the globe and to advise and evaluate a number of start-ups in the travel sector.

Abounadi earned her PhD in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, a BS in electrical engineering from Caltech, and a BA from Bryn Mawr College. She has several publications in the fields of machine learning and communication networks and is passionate about teaching and working with college students. As a long-time housemaster at MIT, she has gained extensive experience in student life.  She lives in Cambridge with her husband and three children. Outside of her professional life, she volunteers at her children’s schools.  She served on the Board of trustees of Shady Hill School for six years, served on the founding school committee of the Center of Arabic Culture, and spends her free time cheering and supporting her children’s sports team.  

Ian A. Waitz, Faculty Director

Dean Ian A. Waitz, portrait.Ian A. Waitz, Dean of the School of Engineering and the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is Faculty Director of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program and. He has been on the faculty at MIT since 1991 and was the department head in Aeronautics and Astronautics from 2008 until his appointment as dean in 2011.

As a researcher, Waitz has made advances in gas turbine engines, fluid mechanics, combustion, and acoustics. The principal focus of his current work is on the modeling and evaluation of climate, the air-quality and noise impacts of aviation, and the assessment of technological, operational, and policy options for mitigating these impacts.

Waitz teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the fields of thermodynamics and energy conversion, propulsion, and experimental projects. He was honored with the 2002 MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award and an appointment as an MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow in 2003.

Waitz received his BS in 1986 from the Pennsylvania State University, his MS in 1988 from George Washington University and his PhD in 1991 from the California Institute of Technology.



Based in the MIT School of Engineering and in partnership with the MIT Innovation Initiative, Sandbox is overseen by an MIT governing board including the Chancellor, the Provost, the Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management, the President of the Graduate Student Council, President of the Undergraduate Association, or their designates.

Visit Us / Get in Touch

  • We are in 1-207 (across from the MIT School of Engineering’s dean’s office).
  • For general information: Jinane Abounadi, Executive Director, MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program
  • For media queries: Michael Patrick Rutter, Director of Media Relations, MIT School of Engineering
  • For prospective supporters: Danielle Festino, Assistant Dean for Development, MIT School of Engineering