Make-A-Thon teams take on sustainability challenges at NCSU Libraries



Sensor-enabled rubber ducks. Intelligent dumpsters. Collapsible coffee cups. These are some of the sustainability project ideas that student teams developed over a busy weekend in NC State’s first Make-A-Thon.

In what organizers hope will become an annual event, Make-A-Thon teams used actual NC State campus data provided by the University Sustainability Office on energy and water usage and waste production. Working in makerspaces in the NCSU Libraries and the Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Garage, eleven student teams researched, designed, prototyped, and pitched technology-based solutions for campus sustainability in dorms, classrooms, and dining halls. After about 45 hours of actual work time, a panel of community and industry sustainability experts chose winning projects in the categories of energy, water, and waste.

Photo by Brian IezziThe Grand Prize went to "KnowURShower,” a device which allows a user to set a personalized water budget and make mid-shower flow adjustments to stay within that budget, sending reports to the user’s phone. Students Derek Whatley, Bryan Murphy, Brian Iezzi, and Michael Meli developed the idea.

The Make-A-Thon was hosted by the NCSU Libraries, the Engineering Village, Women in Science and Engineering, EcoVillage, the Albright Entrepreneurs Village, and the University Sustainability Office. The event was sponsored by Autodesk--which provided its Fusion 360 CAD software to teams--University Housing, Glen Raven Inc., and Sparkfun.

“We wanted it to be a broader, high-impact learning experience for students,” said Chester Miller, Engineering Village director. “We thought of challenges that would be more directed toward something that students could actually see here at NC State. Listening to some of the presentations from students, I think we have some real-life solutions that have some real promise.”

To encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration, each student team included at least two members from among the 14 University Housing learning villages. “Each student brings his or her own skills and expertise,” said Meghan E. Lobsinger, EcoVillage director. “So if you have somebody who’s done a little bit more of the concept design versus somebody who’s actually worked in the Makerspace building prototypes before, and you put them on a team together, they’re really going to help support each other. That came out quite well in that they kinda delegated to each other different aspects of the project.”

Miller expressed hopes that Make-A-Thon projects would develop into proposals for Sustainability Fund projects and the eGames. “If were were able to have student teams create something that would improve sustainability here on campus, that’s gravy for us.”

Make-A-Thon speakers included Autodesk’s Mike Alcazaren, who helps universities deploy the product development tool Fusion 360, and Raleigh-based design guru Aly Khalifa, who founded the invention development firm Gamil Design, co-founded the studio Designbox, and founded and leads the open-source creative festival SPARKcon.

“Our whole goal is to help students have the same skill set that they need when they go into an industry,” Alcazaren said. “We formed a partnership with Adam Rogers at the NCSU Libraries Makerspace about a year ago, talking about how to drive engagement using our Fusion 360 software, and also make an impact on campus. So we shook down the idea filter and came up with this Make-a-Thon idea focused on sustainability so that we could have other campus partners and a really strong event.”

The University Sustainability Office is a national leader, garnering Gold ratings from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and the National Center for Transit Research’s Best Workplaces for Commuters program and a Silver winner in the annual Green Cleaning Award for Schools and Universities.

The 2016 Make-A-Thon prize winners were:

Grand Prize: “KnowURshower.” Team members: Derek Whatley, Bryan Murphy, Brian Iezzi, Michael Meli.

Best Energy Solution: “ecopen.” Team members: Kaitlin Katz, Anastasia Egorova, Benjamin Webber.

Best Water Solution: “Coliform No More.” Team members: ReaDiance Fuller, Ashby Scruggs, Meghana Subramanian, Amelia Weaver.

Best Waste Solution: “Trashr.” Team members: Hartley LeRoy, Nickolas Sischo, Goutham Subramanian, Ian Fisher.

Fusion 360 Prize: “Step-Up Trash Compactor.” Team members: Colleen Roosa, Shantanu Chipde, Nicolas Leone, Damian Foxx.

Fusion 360 Runner-Up: “Internet of Things.” Team members: James De Klerk, Merrick Kemp, Minh Nguyen, Noah Swygert.

Social Media Prize (team): “KnowURshower.” Team members: Derek Whatley, Bryan Murphy, Brian Iezzi, Michael Meli.

Social Media Prize (individual): “Shower CAD-e.” Grand Cheung.

Adam Rogers, Emerging Technologies Services Librarian, 919.515.1880,

About the NCSU Libraries Makerspaces
The NCSU Libraries Makerspace program encompasses spaces and services at the D.H. Hill and James B. Hunt Jr. libraries that offer access to tools and technologies such as 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics prototyping platforms and workstations, and sewing machines, as well as materials and shared expertise, and are open to all NCSU students, faculty, and staff. Visit for more information.