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Maker Challenge

Good Example Challenge: How to use recycled cell phone batteries for power storage in the developing world?


Crowd-sourcing solutions to real problems (challenges) at an event.  Using tables covered with paper (or big white boards), we present Faire-goers with challenges in the real world like, for example, "how to recycle plastic bottles in developing countries".  Hopefully this game is more interactive and interesting than similar crowd-sourcing solutions in the on-line world.

Players can add as many answers to the challenges as they want, play off other people's answers, and write answers which they didn't come up with personally.  Winners are notified via email (they put their emails next to their names).  The person who came up with the challenge votes for the best answers.  There may also be a voting mechanism (if you supply an answer, you also get to vote), though that's a bit confusing for participants at a Faire.


The Maker Movement is getting more people involved in making, skill building, and problem solving.  Much of that energy goes towards projects which are "cool", rather than those that are necessarily "useful".  Nothing wrong with this, but this challenge is intended to get participants to realize that real world problem solving is just as cool and very very useful.

The long term goal is to create a Maker Challenge which will be its own day-long event at a maker or hacker space, where participants work in teams to solve a challenge supplied for an organization (for profit or non-profit).


  • First try at Maker Challenge July 30, 2012

    Detroit Maker Faire was our first attempt at Maker Challenge (see main page for Maker Challenge for a description).  The questions were provided by John Barrie at the Appropriate Technology Collaborative.  The challenges were:

    • How can plastic be recycled on a small, local scale in developing countries instead of ending up in the landfills or as litter on streets?
    • How to make things cold?
    • How can you generate a small amount of electricity easily and at low cost for use in the developing world?
    • How can free, recycled batteries be used in under-developed areas of the world?


    In total, we had 68 answers over 2 days!  Not bad for the first try.


    We could have had many more answers - lots of people didn't even try.  After the first day, very few people added more answers because so many answers were already on the table.  In some ways it might be good to remove those answers so more people would be willing to try, but then we would have a lot of repeat answers.

    Also, we should have brought lots of physical objects (batteries, connectors, mini-turbines, etc.) to help explain the challenges.  The quality of the answers would have been much higher, and probably more people would have been attracted to it, had there been more physical objects on the tables.

    Instead of using paper on tables to have people write their answers, a large whiteboard (white masonite board from Lowes) probably would have been easier to see.  Also, people don't like writing on paper because if they write something wrong, they have to scribble it out.  It makes people afraid to write for fear of screwing up.


    I don't think there's a lot of ugly here!  Overall the idea is sound... probably will only work at certain events with certain types of people (like Maker Faires), but otherwise it's good!

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Office located at Maker Works near Ellsworth and State st in Ann Arbor at:

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