Of minds and makers

​The 2019 Carolina Challenge Makeathon brought together students from diverse backgrounds to form teams that turned socially innovative ideas into something tangible

On a chilly Sunday evening when most students were wrapped up in run-of-the-mill weekend routines, Ben Morgan stood in the Kenan Science Library talking about an idea that was anything but ordinary – something that could simultaneously excite environmental advocates and closet neat freaks.

“We’re working on making a compostable shoe,” said Morgan, a doctoral student in polymer chemistry, who explained that old shoes typically aren’t donated to second-hand stores and are major culprits for cluttering closets before they stack up in landfills. “Our idea is that if you’re going to wear your shoes into the ground, turn them into dirt when you’re done with them.”

He was one of 138 students who convened in the library makerspace for the kickoff of the 2019 Carolina Challenge Makeathon, a week-long series of events, workshops and learning sessions designed to bring together Carolina innovators and makers to turn socially innovative concepts into something tangible.

The Makeathon was hosted by the Entrepreneurship Center at the Kenan-Flagler Business School in conjunction with nine campus partners, including Innovate Carolina and the Be A Maker (BeAM) initiative. It’s where students like Morgan, who teamed with senior business major Sarah Smith and biochemistry doctoral student Jeff Ehrhardt, started their week of experiential learning and making. And with 15 workshops, 27 hours of open BeAM makerspaces, 38 hours of app lab sessions and 71 available office hours hosted by 17 entrepreneurial-minded mentors, the chances to learn while building a prototype, designing an app or launching a website materialized quickly.

“We’re excited about all the resources that the Makeathon has for us – not only going to office hours to meet with people who can help us, but also the space, training and workshops that we can use and learn from as we build our first prototype,” Smith said.

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