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WPI Tinkerbox provides seed funding for WPI student-initiated innovation and entrepreneurship ideas (MQPs, graduate research and similar projects may also qualify). Grant recipients will have access to mentors, workshops that will provide customized “just-in-time” skills and events.

The main driver for the Tinkerbox program is a deep desire to build an I&E Community by fostering partnerships with students who wish to work on their ideas/projects.  In the spirit of building a ‘Tinkering Community’, participants engage in Group Mentoring/Goal Setting sessions which allow teams the opportunity to learn about other student projects, suggest improvements as well as brainstorm, all aimed at building a diverse and inclusive I&E Community.

Seed funding range: $500-$3,000

  • About Tinkerbox Program

    WPI Tinkerbox Cohort 6 provides seed funding for WPI student-initiated innovation and entrepreneurship ideas.  Grant recipients will have access to accomplished entrepreneurial mentors who will provide guidance on your projects; workshops aimed at developing and honing your entrepreneurial skills; and community networking events.

    Seed funding range:  $500 - $2000

  • Eligibility
    • WPI degree-seeking undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate.
    • Teams can have undergraduate or graduate students from any department at WPI as well as non-student and non-WPI members.  A team comprised of one WPI student is allowed.
    • A team must have at least one full-time WPI student in a leadership role.
    • All students participating in the program must be in good academic standing.
    • Eligible projects include:  Personal, club, and class projects involving prototyping and testing; start-up ideas (not in the scaling stage), GPS/IQP/MQP* projects 
      • *For MQP's, are there aspects of your project where your team could ‘tinker’ – ideally complementing the MQP – versus funding the MQP?  If your team were to receive funding, could you expand upon the goal of the MQP and allow your team the opportunity to ‘test out’ an idea complementing the MQP goal and scope?  In the application process, your team will be asked to describe how you would use the funds to complement the goal of the MQP - versus funding the MQP.
    • Teams must disclose other sources of funding.
    • Teams are still eligible for WPI Tinkerbox as long as your team’s prior or concurrent funding totals under $50,000.
  • Application Process
    1. Submit an online application and provide:
      • A clear description of the problem your idea/project addresses
      • A clear description of the proposed solution
      • A short description of your idea/project that can be shared publicly
      • List of team members
      • A high-level project plan including milestones
      • A description of achievements to date
      • A budget plan showing how you will use the Tinkerbox funds
    2. Decisions will be sent by email and will include:
      • Feedback from reviewers regarding cohort participation
      • For funding requests < $1,000, the awarded monetary amount
      • For funding requests $1,000 or more, your team will be invited to present a 10-minute presentation to the Tinkerbox Review Board.
  • Schedule

    The Tinkerbox program is offered two times during the academic year.  The first cohort runs September through December, while the second cohort runs February through May.  Students are welcome to participate in multiple cohorts over several academic years.

  • Commitments


    To maintain membership in the Tinkerbox Cohort 6, students must agree to the following requirements.  Should a student fail to meet these requirements, membership in the Tinkerbox Cohort 6 may be revoked and reimbursements may not be guaranteed.

    Should your project be chosen, your team will be required to satisfy the following requirements:

    1. Kick-off Meeting
      • Attendance at the Tinkerbox Cohort 6 Kick-off Meeting is mandatory.
    2. Monthly Reports
      • Submitted through Canvas, monthly reports are updates to inform the WPI I&E team, your mentors, and the gift donor of your progress.
      • The report template can be found in the Tinkerbox Canvas site.
      • The final monthly report will be a reflection video on your Tinkerbox journey.
        • This video will be shared with the cohort members, mentors, gift donor, and WPI I&E Community.
    3. Individual Mentoring Sessions
      • Each team will be assigned an industry mentor.
      • Teams must meet with your mentor at least twice a month.
        • Each session lasts approximately ½ hour.
      • Failure to meet with your mentor may result in revocation of Tinkerbox membership and denial of reimbursement submissions.
    4. Group Goal Setting Meetings
      • Each team must attend at least two monthly Group Goal Setting Meetings.
        • At least one team member from each team must attend to represent the team.
      • Failure to meet with your Group Goal Setting teams may result in revocation of Tinkerbox membership and denial of reimbursement submissions.
    5. Reflection Videos
      • At the end of the program, teams must create a brief reflection video (approximately 3 – 5 minutes) documenting their progress through Tinkerbox Cohort 6.
      • The reflection videos will be one tool utilized to build the ‘Tinkering Community’, inspire current Tinkerbox members as well as new students to apply to Tinkerbox Cohort 7, and attract additional funding so this program can be offered again. 
  • Guidelines for use of WPI Tinkerbox Funds

    Funding for Tinkerbox is possible because of the deep commitment of alumni and friends to WPI’s mission.  As a result, only certain types of purchases will be eligible for reimbursement. Purchases that do not adhere to the guidelines outlined below will not be reimbursed.


    • Allowed Expenses: *Purchases must be made after the award notification and before the end of the cohort.
      1. Software licenses (if it cannot be obtained for free)
      2. Hardware parts & materials
      3. Conference fees (cannot exceed the $200-$500 range and requires pre-approval).  Must comply with all Covid-19 guidelines.
    • Expenses that are *Not* Allowed:
      1. Gifts, gift cards, alcohol, and items not directly related to the team project
      2. Team dinners, meals, outings
      3. Market research expenses; expenses incurred to meet with prospective customers or subjects of market research.  (When you reach the market research stage, please consider participating in the WPI I-Corps program.)
      4. Personal computers or smart phones. We can work with you to provide AWS and Google Cloud credits, and they should be requested when computer resources are needed for the product development.
      5. Education courses outside of WPI
      6. Legal fees
      7. Coworking space rental
      8. Uber, Lyft, or other private means of transportation. Teams should use public transportation in the local area.
      9.  Outside Developers and Contractors ​Expediated shipping; expense reports with expediated/priority overnight shipping charges will not be reimbursed.
  • Honest Broker
    • WPI’s Tinkerbox does not take equity in student companies.
    • Students and teams do not give up any rights to intellectual property (IP) through participation in the Tinkerbox program.
    • Funding for WPI Tinkerbox (and other programs) is possible because of the deep commitment of alumni and friends to WPI’s mission such as the Women’s Impact Network.
    • If you would like to pay-it-forward, consider joining Gompei’s circle, which is a pledge to remember WPI in the future and support programs like Tinkerbox.

Meet Our Tinkerbox Cohorts

Cohort 5- Project Bear Necessities

Pictured is two out of three Cohort 5 team members Imogen and Jyalu (Wenlan is not present). Their original project (Cohort 4) was making blankets/quilts for the homeless.  When COVID struck, they pivoted to making masks (Cohort 5) and delivering them to the homeless shelters. Kudos to Project Bear Necesseties for supporting our community in times of need!

Cohort 5 Team- High Power Rocketry Club

The High Power Rocketry Club as they 'tinker' in the lab. 

WPI Tinkerbox is powered by the generous support of WPI’s President’s Office and The Women’s Impact Network