Build-a-Thon encourages student innovation

Alex Hahn

The HW Venture club held their very first Build-a-Thon event March 20 in which students in groups of four cooperated to innovate an original business product.

Venture and Immersion worked together to create the Build-a-Thon competition.

Venture collaborated with Immersion, an entrepreneurship school co-founded by Club Co-Leader Amaan Furinturewala ’21 and Stanford University student Manu Iribarren. Immersion’s staff served as guides throughout the event, and in a time window of 2 1/2 hours , teams brainstormed, prototyped and pitched their ideas to a panel of judges that consisted of Venture Co-Leader Jacky Zhang ’21, entrepreneur Mike McGinley (Walker ’22) and Lucas Gelfond ’19 .

After a two-hour deliberation period by the judges, a total of $175 in Amazon gift cards was awarded to the top three teams, with first place winning $100, second place earning $50 and third place getting $25.

The top three winners created environmentally-minded projects.

Natalie Ro ’25, Maya Ray ’25 and Mia Morgan ’25 won first place in the competition for their app “Bin Friends,” which helps designate waste items to their correct bin, decreasing the chance of decontamination to recycling systems by the placement of garbage into the incorrect bins.

Sarah Brown ’24 and Adrian Drouin ’27 won second place with their app “Ally to Nature,” a system that provides the location of accessible areas in need of environmental cleaning, for example, nearby beaches.

Connor Merrihew ’27 and Michael Gonzalez ’27 took third place with their product “The Smart Plug,” an outlet that helps reduce one’s carbon footprint by detecting and turning off idle devices that are connected to it. The Smart Plug also provides information on the efficiency of energy consumption.

Club leaders said they considered the competition a success but are considering improvements, as well.

Despite it being online, Club Co-head Davis Marks ’24 said he thought the Build-a-Thon went extremely well.

“Everyone was super engaged and some of the final products were very impressive for only being a two and a half hour event,” Marks said. “Seeing people so eager to participate on a Saturday morning was definitely a highlight for me.”

In light of the Build-a-Thon’s success, Marks said Venture would be planning similar events in the future and that they would definitely be focusing on increasing the number of participants.

Marks also gave insight into why Venture decided to host the Build-a-Thon, in addition to providing his take on why it was a great experience for the participants.

“The whole point of the Build-a-Thon was to give students, specifically middle school students, an outlet to build something and use their creative thinking and problem solving skills,” Marks said. “Listening to a speaker is fun, but getting your hands dirty and actually getting to harness your creative thinking and problem solving skills is unbeatable.”