Student Life

Sandbox Innovation & Social Entrepreneurship Centre

Sandbox Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Centre

The Sandbox is an exciting initiative on campus to allow students to explore innovative and entrepreneurial ideas with other students. This is a space to work together, be creative and play with ideas.

The Sandbox is a student-centric innovation and entrepreneurship hub at John Abbott College. Our mission is to engage students from all disciplines in a problem-solving process for real-world problems where students participate in non-credit activities, developing their own projects and gain experience.

We are located in Herzberg 163.

For more information:

514-457-6610 Ext. 5120



Green Innovation Challenge, January 2023

The second edition of the Green Innovation Challenge was held on Friday January 13, 2023 at John Abbott College, in collaboration with Vanier College. The event was sponsored by the Caisse Desjardins (West Island), with support from West Island Community Shares (WICS). The intensive one-day event was planned in the style of a ‘’start-up’’ weekend. Students learned about how to develop their project ideas through a series of workshops and teamwork activities, after which the five teams “pitched” their projects to a panel of judges. Program coordinators from both colleges were present, as well as student mentors from a previous Sandbox cohort, who served to guide the teams in their projects.


First Place Winner: M & M:

Left to right: Student winners Yana Parkimovich and Cam Dorvilier-Schell with judge Susan Mckercher, Chair of the Board of the Caisse de l’Ouest-de-l’Île.

The M&M project is a student-led initiative that uses agro-industrial waste (specifically coffeegrounds) in order to grow edible fungi. In creating something from nothing, we provide students and charities with high-protein, nutritious produce for a fraction of the cost of store-bought mushrooms. This project will address the issues of organic waste and nutrition on a local scale. We estimate our project to be up and running by Spring break of 2023. We’ll be collecting used coffee grounds from the Oval Coffee House and the JAC Bistro and actively growing many mushroom varieties (to be donated to the JAC pantry, sold at the Oval and/or even at MacDonald Famer’s Market). As fungi is easy to cultivate given basic conditions, the project can be conducted on the JAC campus, in any unused space. In the long run, we envision an expansion of the project across other CEGEPs on the island of Montreal.






Since January, a project proposal has been sent to the Student Activities department to obtain a space to set up the mushroom farm. While the request was processed, a temporary space for the farm was set up in the Mushroomtopia clubroom. Allocated funds were used to purchase two indoor greenhouses, various liquid mycelium cultures, as well as plenty of bulk grain, sterile equipment and containers/shelving for production.

Throughout the semester, student volunteers took care of the mushrooms in the greenhouses, observed and altered their living conditions to provide the richest harvests. During bi-weekly labs, Mushroomtopia members were taught how to clone and propagate mycelium cultures, inoculate spawn jars and examine hyphae under the microscope.

The next steps of the project will be taking place in Fall 2023. The semester will consist of installing and automating a permanent hydroponic tent in collaboration with the Robotics Club, sharing the spent substrate with JAC Harvest and donating the fresh mushrooms to the JAC Pantry.

Second Place Winner: Fungicycle

Left to right: Student Eric Nyhus, judge Gary Whittaker, student Oliver Thomas and judge Sophie McCann, Director of West Island Community Shares

Our idea is to replace plastic and cardboard food containers with mycelium as packaging, and containers. Cardboard and plastic containers remain an environmental problem. Although in recent years single use plastics have been replaced by cardboard, cardboard still isn’t a good enough solution. Cardboard is derived from trees which means that replacing plastic with cardboard simply adds onto the forestation crisis. Mycelium comes from fungus, it is the “root” of the fungus and is a green material. We have selected mycelium to develop for use because of its many properties, properties like using agricultural waste in production, thermal resistance, moisture resistance, quick production and decomposition times. Mycelium is also inexpensive compared to polystyrene which is used in many plastic products today. Mycelium being a fungus doesn’t require access to sunlight, it simply uses the energy found in today’s otherwise wasted organic material.

To shape the mycelium, simply place the waste organic material into a mould, then place a fungus into that material. Within a week the fungus will have fully filled the mould leaving no waste material. Lastly, it is placed in the oven. Because mycelium uses otherwise wasted organic material, it uses only 12% of the energy used in plastic production, even better, because it’s organic we see a 90% reduction in CO2 released by this industry. We plan on using all of its energy and environmental benefits to make the world a better place by first starting in the food containment industry which has been a major contribution to the world’s current plastic crisis.

Third Place Winner

Left to right: Student Joan-Micah, judge Gary Whittaker, student Priyesh Patel and judge Susan McKercher.

The RainBeau’s goal is to implement a sustainable water collection system which aims to reduce the use of tap water for watering plants in the John Abbott community, along with its surrounding areas. The goal is to insert our tank which collects rainwater and stores it for later use to water plants, in contrast to relying on tap water. Currently, JAC uses tap water to water our plants in the Zen Zone and outside the AME science building. By installing this device at these two locations, the consumption of tap water is reduced by recycling water that is provided by nature. This creates responsible consumption of water, hence building a sustainable community. It is not only a benefit for the community, but also for the plants that will receive a natural source of water, in the form of rain. The reservoir can also be utilized with snow. The plants on land benefit from rainwater in contrast to tap water. When rain falls to the ground, it combines with other minerals in the atmosphere, which imparts it to an acidic pH which then helps to release micronutrients such as zinc, manganese, copper and iron from the soil. The first prototype will be completed 3 months following the event, with additional improvements and additions made on a monthly basis.

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