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First UW-Platteville Prototype Hackathon challenges students to build solutions to real-world problems

Eleven University of Wisconsin-Platteville student teams were given 16 hours and a seemingly simple mission: create an original prototype to solve an everyday problem.

UW-Platteville seniors and WiSys Technology Foundation student ambassadors Josh Dust and Josh Inglett took the lead on planning the first Prototype Hackathon. Former ambassador and UW-Platteville alumnus Zen Abbey came up with the idea as a way to utilize the University’s facilities and allow students to exhibit their talents.

The Ambassadors “pioneered” this innovative competition with the support of WiSys, UW-Platteville’s Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement (PACCE), the Platteville Regional Chamber and the UW-Platteville College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science.

Candidates were given access to the College’s labs, including 3D printers, the weekend of April 8-9. Participants crafted diverse solutions to many of life’s problems, but a panel of judges used their diverse backgrounds to select three prototypes that stood out from the rest at a reception and dinner on April 27.

The judging panel included Rob Cramer, UW-Platteville’s Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services; Molly Gribb, Dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science; Dave Ward, Chair of WiSys’ Board of Trustees; Jon Horne, fund manager at Idea Fund; and UW-Platteville mechanical engineering professor Tom Zolper.

Students Jonathan Geissler and Dawson Nemmers took first place with their novel design to adapt dispensing mechanisms of soap, shampoo and conditioner to control quantities and allow variability in the amount dispensed. The team won a $1,000 cash prize from the Platteville Regional Chamber and their project was accepted into WiSys’ portfolio, which includes support for protecting the intellectual property and developing the technology.

Taking second place, Kyle Valenza and Jacob Knabe designed a device to more accurately measure the angle and range of motion of the human knee. They were awarded a $500 cash prize from WiSys. Third place winners Nathan Christian and John Skinkis and Ben Deuerling won a $250 cash prize from PACCE for their design of a cord that automatically unplugs itself from a wall outlet.

The breadth of ideas and the quality of the prototypes impressed WiSys Regional Associate Tony Hanson, who worked with the Student Ambassadors to organize the event.

“I had the pleasure of working with the students teams throughout the entire event.It was quite impressive to see the determination they put into developing their prototypes as well as the professionalism they showed in presenting their product concepts to the judging panel,” Hanson said.

WiSys Executive Director Arjun Sanga said he would like to see the Prototype Hackathon become an annual event that could be scaled to include other UW System campuses.

“WiSys has been working toward enhancing the student experience at our member campuses by providing opportunities for UW students to test out their skills and showcase their talents in innovation through events like the Prototype Hackathon,” Sanga said. “Partnering with this events’ sponsors was essential in pulling off an extremely successful event at UW-Platteville.”