Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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InnoBox Science and Engineering Kit

IDEAS Competition & People's Choice

InnoBox Science and Engineering Kit

Competition Year: 2011

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.

Health and Medical Education and Training Energy and Environment Water and Sanitation Other

  • Team Members
  • A. Mehta
  • J. Li
  • W. Hwang
  • N. Kumar


Quick Links

Our Pitch

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.

Who We Are

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 (, 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.

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

United InnoWorks Academy


Cambridge, Massachusetts


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.


  • Service Location
    South Africa
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Comments and Support

  • my niece is 15 and will be 16 in April. She loves science and she wants to become a criminal investigator. She is a Foster niece. Her dad is jail and will be there for 10 or more years. Her Mother had been on drugs. Her stepsister is in jail. Her brother was killed at the age of 16.Her other sister is living with a abusive husband. Angelina is a straight A student I have had her since the age of 3 and would like for her to have the opportunity to exceed in life. thank you Ruby Abrego

    Posted by ANGELINA ABREGO on Sat, Jan 26th 2013, 00:02 Report Abuse

  • I am so much in love with your stuff. Any means to be part, though far off in West Africa - GHANA?

    Posted by EMMANUEL TSEDEY on Thu, Dec 6th 2012, 02:20 Report Abuse

  • Great job!I am an African and live in Africa,I know what children in Africa are going through and you seem to hit the nail right on its head.Thanks in advance.i will be fully and willing to help in anyway I can.

    Posted by N. Nfor Donald on Wed, Sep 21st 2011, 06:31 Report Abuse

  • Great job Innoworks!

    Posted by G. Allen on Tue, May 3rd 2011, 08:48 Report Abuse

  • 1384, 915

    Posted by E. Stackpole on Mon, Apr 25th 2011, 19:51 Report Abuse

  • Voter #1383, follower #914. :D

    Posted by E. Stackpole on Mon, Apr 25th 2011, 19:50 Report Abuse

  • voter 1380 follower 911

    Posted by b. dwyer on Mon, Apr 25th 2011, 19:37 Report Abuse

  • I voted for InnoBox Science & Engineering

    Posted by R. Saab on Sun, Apr 24th 2011, 16:14 Report Abuse

  • This is such a great idea! Go for it!!

    Posted by C. Lin on Fri, Apr 22nd 2011, 22:34 Report Abuse

  • vote 1132, follower 712. good luck!

    Posted by V. Lin on Fri, Apr 22nd 2011, 21:00 Report Abuse

  • Vote 1311 and Follower 711! hope you guys win~!

    Posted by J. Zeng on Fri, Apr 22nd 2011, 20:38 Report Abuse

  • fantastic job!!

    Posted by M. Munro on Sat, Apr 16th 2011, 12:42 Report Abuse

  • By teaching well thought out practical science ideas in a simple and convenient ways, this project would provide the means to develop day to day necessities of life which all of us in the developed world take for granted. A great project with a great objective which would help to an extent in improving the quality of life in the African Society,

    Posted by Hemant Kumar on Sat, Apr 16th 2011, 09:57 Report Abuse

  • Good Job and you get my vote!

    Posted by sharon liu on Fri, Apr 15th 2011, 15:19 Report Abuse

  • Thanks for all the programs you put on for us. We really love them. Thanks for taking so much of your life for us.

    Posted by A. Galanis on Thu, Apr 14th 2011, 18:35 Report Abuse

  • Greatly needed concept!

    Posted by y. lovell on Thu, Apr 14th 2011, 12:21 Report Abuse

  • We looked at your site, our whole family is really impressed with what you all have done. You should make this available to as many of the developing countries as possible. Good luck to you.

    Posted by Bill King on Thu, Apr 14th 2011, 00:15 Report Abuse

  • There is a need and you can do it! Since the scope is quite ambitious, you may consider doing it in stages. Best luck!

    Posted by K. Cai on Tue, Apr 12th 2011, 09:08 Report Abuse

  • Great idea! I am assuming that the developing world also includes the under-developed area in the developed countries

    Posted by C. Deng on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 20:35 Report Abuse

  • Like what you do, but I think you can better with your marketing as to targeting that is really needed.

    Posted by J. Meng on Sun, Apr 10th 2011, 20:29 Report Abuse

  • Welcome, InnoBox! I'm looking forward to learning more about what your team is working on. Don't forget: to be eligible to enter a final proposal and compete, you'll want to enter an initial proposal by either February 5 or March 5. Drop Kate or I a line at globalchallenge at mit dot edu if you have any questions.

    Posted by L. Hasselblad Torres on Sat, Feb 5th 2011, 22:55 Report Abuse

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