The University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center held its third annual Makerthon competition, presented in collaboration with Click Bond, Inc., March 24-26, 2023. This year, distinguished as Mak3rthon, seven teams of students – the largest cohort yet – were featured in the 48-hour competition.
“Makerthon is a great opportunity for us to inspire young innovators and provide an inclusive environment for participants to immerse in design thinking and creative problem solving,” said Grace Chou, the University’s chief innovation and commercialization officer and director of the Innevation Center. “This is great for Nevada as we prepare our workforce of the future.”
Using the Makerspace’s wide array of tools, machinery and software, teams of students from both college and high school had 48 hours to develop, test, produce and then present a prototype of their product to a panel of judges. This year’s judges included Chou, Kenzie Malone with Click Bond, and Eric Wang with the University’s College of Engineering.
“It’s a good introduction for students who want to get into engineering or STEM or simply want to make something that’s not even mechanical,” student participant Sinai Hernandez Mendoza said during an interview with KRNV-TV. “There’s lots of materials that they can work with, and I think that the prompt is really relevant to the area.”
The competition’s real-world challenge prompt stated, “Northern Nevada and the greater Lake Tahoe area are popular destinations for all-season outdoor recreation. Whether enjoying snow sports, cycling, rock climbing, or any number of other activities, it is undeniable that outdoor recreation should be accessible to everyone. In 2020, the United States had over 60 million adults living with a disability that could limit their ability to fully enjoy outdoor recreational activities. According to the CDC, accessibility is ‘when the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered, and products, services, and facilities are built or modified so that they can be used by people of all abilities.’ Some examples of these modifications or accommodations are parking spaces close to entrances, clear floor spaces and hallways free of equipment or barriers, or professionals who can use sign language.
“Individuals with disabilities affecting mobility, cognition, vision, hearing, selfcare, and more face many potential challenges relative to equity and access to outdoor recreation activities. Whether with gear, infrastructure, equipment, clothing, or more, this market generates numerous opportunities and significant potential for innovation and improvement. The task: create a product designed to improve outdoor recreation accessibility for all.”
“Seeing that passion ignite in their eyes and knowing that this is something they’re going to do,” Daniel Smith, Innevation Center Makerspace manager, said in an interview with KTVN-TV. “They’re going to be makers now, they’re going to come and learn, they’re going to know that they can build things and that they can accomplish all of these amazing tasks.”
The winning members on self-named Team Jirachi are Elena Chau, Zane Abi-Rached, Jose Regalado and Althea Santos. They took home a $1,500 check prize for their invention, a prototype product called The Climbin’ Buddy, wearable wrist and ankle bands with embedded RFID readers and supported with a mobile app, making rock climbing more accessible for the visually impaired.
Second place was awarded to team Endurance Engineering with their product Punch Brake: a push-forward bicycle brake for those with limited mobility or hand-grip issues. The third place was team 3 Peeps, comprised of Honors College students, who created HiCane: an adaptable walking cane built with springs, lights, a speaker, emergency SOS and GPS modules.
Follow the Innevation Center on Instagram, @UNRInnevationCenter, and find this year’s competition on the 2023 highlight reel.