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Want $10,000 in prizes? Compete in the Carolina Challenge Makeathon

Sabah Kadir (right) looks on to Phaedra Boinodiris' keynote lecture on the future of artificial intelligence in UNC's Makathon on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019 in Murray Hall.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated how many many students and teams the Makeathon featured. It featured 37 teams and 138 students. It also incorrectly stated where Callie Brauel works. Brauel works at the Entrepreneurship Center. Additionally, the article incorrectly identified the name of the Makeathon. The name is the Carolina Challenge Makeathon.

The Carolina Challenge Makeathon weeklong event kicked off on Sunday, giving creative students the chance to showcase their talents — and compete for over $10,000 in prizes. 

The Makeathon is a cross-campus competition fueled by creativity to channel innovation into physical and digital prototypes that promote positive social impact.

"I just love creating things, so I'm in it to learn, and I'm interested to see how this entrepreneurial perspective of innovation intersects with product design," said Brittany Huffman, Makeathon participant and graduate student in the Department of Chemistry. 

UNC's first Makeathon featured 138 students, 37 teams, 14 mentors, 15 workshops and nine cross-campus partners, said Callie Brauel, assistant director of the Entrepreneurship Center at Kenan-Flagler Business School. Students compete with an academically diverse team of three to five other students in one of two tracks: digital or physical product development. For academic diversity, each Makeathon team is required to have a combination of at least three different majors.

Students can win prizes for the Best Digital Product, the Best Physical Product, Creative Makerspace Use, Creative App Lab Use, Student's Choice and Best Overall.

Participants are also granted special access to on-campus makerspaces, app labs, workshops, research databases and expert mentors to design, reiterate and enhance their products, business models and pitches. 

Jeff Terrell, a professor in the Department of Computer Science and a mentor for the Makeathon in the late-stage digital track, runs the App Lab, where students can learn how to build web and mobile applications. 

“Both faculty and students are focused on understanding things better and advancing the boundaries of what us humans know, and I think that’s really important,” Terrell said. “We are helping students think more in terms of making things, and showing them that the barriers of making things are not actually as high as they might think.”

North Carolina State University introduced the idea of the Makeathon. N.C. State has been holding the event for four consecutive years. After a meeting with N.C. State, a committee at UNC was formed to learn about and adapt the idea, Brauel said.

Over 10 years ago, the Stedman family, graduates of Kenan-Flagler Business School, established a foundation for the Carolina Challenge, a cross-campus pitch competition that focused on a shark tank competition between teams.

When Brauel became director of Carolina Challenge in August, she said she wanted to diversify the idea of the Carolina Challenge and open it up to all students on campus, regardless of majors or skill sets. When the idea to form UNC's Makeathon, which intersects both entrepreneurship and innovation, came about, she took the opportunity to make the change. The Carolina Challenge was adapted to form the UNC Makeathon.

“In reality, the mindset of entrepreneurship should be for everyone across campus, rather than just business majors,” Brauel said. “My hope is that these 180 students who may not have considered themselves to be entrepreneurs before this event will realize that they, too, can develop those skill sets, which can apply to their careers no matter what profession they’re in.”

Participants of the Makeathon are introduced to multiple perspectives within the teams. Brauel said this lesson is valuable to professional development because when students graduate, they won't only work with people in their discipline — in the real world, teams are diverse.

“People across campus will get to meet other students that they wouldn’t otherwise cross paths with, forming a team of diverse talents and a strong dynamic,” said Aspyn Fulcher, program manager of the Entrepreneurship Center at Kenan-Flagler, who worked alongside Brauel to run the Makeathon. “We are bringing a lot of different people together to create and innovate.” 

Fulcher said if the UNC Makeathon builds momentum this week, they hope to continue the tradition, with an eventual vision to extend the Makeathon into a “friendly” Triangle competition between N.C. State and Duke University. 


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