Innovation and collaboration in the land of 10,000 Makes

Event unleashes student creativity to solve “Grand Challenges”

Using plants to recycle water. Building sustainable housing for cricket farms. Developing an interactive recycling bin lid. These are just a few innovative ideas that emerged from the 10,000 Makes Makeathon presented this fall by the University of Minnesota student groups Tesla Works and Design U.

With financial support from Target Corporation and nearly 250 pounds of materials donated from the University’s ReUse Program, student teams were given just 24 hours to design a product that connected to the theme “Grand Challenges.” The goal of 10,000 Makes is to inspire students from all areas of study to think creatively and spontaneously while networking professionally.

Organizers touted the event as a “festival of creativity” as it welcomed students from all areas of study at the University of Minnesota.

More than 50 students from 11 science and engineering academic majors participated in the collaborative event. They used a wide array of resources and maker spaces on campus, including the new CSE Anderson Student Innovation Labs.

“We’re tackling problems like developing sustainable cities in the face of climate change and promoting just and equitable societies in a divisive political climate,” said Josh Halverson, a mechanical engineering student and 10,000 Makes event officer. “The trouble is that Grand Challenges are hard. But, we believe in the power of students and know that we are investing in people who will solve these challenges later in life.”

As students brainstormed ideas and developed project outlines, they were able to work directly with 12 industry professionals and faculty who provided valuable insight and assistance in their endeavors. After physically constructing their products, teams pitched their ideas at the closing ceremony to a panel of four judges, one of them being University of Minnesota’s Executive Vice President and Provost Karen Hanson.

This year’s winner, the Mega Tropical Foxes, fashioned a device that aims to reduce retail water waste by using plants to filter and recycle gently used greywater in a program they called “Grey to Green.”

The Grubs, this year’s runner-up, designed and built efficient cricket farms in order to address the issue of food sustainability. They advocated for the idea to substitute crickets as a protein-rich food source to offset the consumption of traditional meats that take significant amounts of valuable resources to produce.

Xx_CSE_FTW_GG_xX, a team made up entirely of underclassmen engineering students, pitched an interactive recycling bin that tracked the number of times objects were recycled. With this invention, they hoped to increase motivation to recycle in addition to collecting data detailing how often people recycle.

Kyle Gee, a member of second-place team The Grubs, said 10,000 Makes provided an opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds to work together to build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.

“Our team had students from engineering, liberal arts, business, and design,” Gee said. “It’s uncommon to work on a team like this in a typical class.”

Organizers are already making plans for a 10,000 Makes Makeathon in 2017 hoping to involve more students and possibly other universities. To support the 10,000 Makes Makethon or get involved, contact the organizers at