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Madison's First Place Winning Team Heading To Nationals

In Madison, Wisconsin eight teams competed for the first place trophy for Midwest Prototyping's challenge, "Outdoor Play." What resulted were some of the best made prototypes that this competition has ever seen. The winners will go on to compete in Wichita for Make48's National event, a filmed PBS docuseries.

Get to know Madison's first place winner, the Free Wheelers!

Ben, Nikki, Claude and Zach created one heck of a new game! The team from Trek Bicycles came into the competition with a wide range of skills and knowledge.

Ben was the team captain and has worked at Trek for 15 years. He's spent 6 years in carbon manufacturing, 5 years as a design for manufacturing engineer, and then 3 years managing the prototype development team.

Nikki has worked at Trek for 8 years. In her current role she designs bike share and stations as the Sr. Product Designer for BCycle (a Trek owned subsidiary in the micro mobility market). Previous to BCycle, she was a Packaging Designer on the Trek Product Design Team for 4 years.

Claude has worked at Trek for 13 years. He previously worked in carbon manufacturing and as a wheel manufacturing and design engineer. In his current role he does engineering management for wheels, tires, saddles, grips, and bike essentials

Zach has worked at Trek for 2 years. In his current role, he leads the UX research across the product teams. Prior to Trek, he worked for a human factors engineering company focusing on data science and mobile applications for Special Operations.

How did you hear about the Make48 competition and why did you decide to pursue it?

Chad Manuell approached the engineering leadership team about pulling a team together to represent Trek at the Madison competition. Ben & Claude thought it sounded like a great opportunity for people to use their skill sets and volunteered to help pull together the team. Little did we know that we would end up being 2 of the 4 people on the team! Zach has been a part of similar competitions and really enjoyed them, so he was excited to help out. Nikki heard about the opportunity and couldn’t have been more excited to participate. She has always had a passion for this style of competition.

What were your team strengths and how did you know which team member was doing what?

Our team worked together very well; had good synergy. No one held firm to any particular idea but kept an open mind to what the best solution could be. We have a diverse set of skills and different backgrounds. Zach is a people person and knows how to figure out what people really want. Definitely a jack of all trades. Nikki brought the energy to the group. She has passion for shark tank (family dream to be on the show) and all things creative! Ben was our project planner and helped keep us on track. Claude is very hands-on; he loves building things, solving problems and is very methodical.

What kind of ideas did you brainstorm before coming up with your winning idea, BocceRoll?

We came up with quite a few ideas but ended up narrowing them down and only prototyping a couple of game concepts. The ideas included, Ladder tree - using vertical horse shoes (similar to ladder golf) and a Picnic blanket scrabble/boggle game.

We can’t wait to see your team this year at the Nationals. What are you most looking forward to?

Seeing what the new challenge is and meeting the other challengers and to see what they come up with for solutions. The facility in Wichita (looks awesome!)

Watch the full Madison episode on Make48's YouTube channel

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