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Sparks of Imagination: Recap of the 48-Hour Invention Competition at The Kansas School for the Blind

The campus was abuzz with excitement as the highly anticipated Make48 Invention Competition took place, bringing together students from around the state of Kansas and Missouri to showcase their ingenuity, creativity and problem-solving abilities.

2023 Kansas School for the Blind-Make48 Event

It was a whirlwind of creativity, collaboration, and innovation that unfolded during the invention-competition event. Over the course of two days, these brilliant participants faced a relentless race against time to conceive, design, and prototype a brand new toy invention. Together with their mighty team captains, the teams pitched a unique idea for the Skill & Action Toy challenge.

The competition kicked off with a burst of energy as the teams gathered at the Kansas School for the Blind makerspace, the atmosphere beaming with enthusiasm. Design Edge, a leader in the toy & game industry and go-to company for many of the world's largest toy companies, called the challenge. President, Matt Nuccio, will review the team's ideas and marketing videos to share with his clients, in hopes of moving the winning prototype to the next step.

The air was electric with ideas. KSSB teams were led by team captains from local and national companies including; The DeBruce Foundation, Wet & Forget, MTI Events, MarkOne Electric, Cyderes, and Kadean Construction Company. [Meet the teams]

Team Captains: Back row: Matticus Hunt, Adam Smith, Brent Uebelhart, Nich Musselman, Nick Privitera, Clint Hanson, Joe Kelley and Kellye Crocket. Front Row: Natalie Zimmerman, Tom Gray, and Bill Kriege

Teams dispersed to their workspaces, armed with notebooks, whiteboards, and a multitude of tools and an army of Tool Techs. These young innovators dived deep into the invention process, even meeting with Nick Appel from Erise IP Law firm to follow the laws of Intellectual Property and Trademarks.

Discussions, heated debates, laughter, and music filled the makerspace, highlighting the intense collaboration taking place. As the sun began to set on day 1, ideas crystallized into concrete concepts, forming the bedrock for the inventions to come. The teams worked tirelessly, fueled by adrenaline and sugar, as they prepared for the challenges of the upcoming day.

KSSB Tool Techs

Day 2: From Concept to Creation

With a new day dawning, the makerspace opened at 6am and students began rolling in early to get ready for the Hardware Run. Westlake Ace Hardware generously handed out $200 gift cards to teams to buy materials for their prototypes, and other tangible items, including the ever important licorice. After an hour, KSSB herded the teams back to their workstation to embark on transforming their concepts into a working prototype.

Hardware Run at Westlake Ace Hardware in Kansas City, KS

VIP’s were invited to meet the teams and were provided with a special dinner, sponsored by Blind Spot, a Kansas City nonprofit organization. Guests from the Kansas City area checked in at the KSSB makerspace to meet the teams and roam the competition floor, providing valuable guidance and support. Guests then gathered to the bus, where they were blindfolded and taken to an unknown location.

Nicole and Chris Carr are the founders of Blind Spot, an organization working to make the world more inclusive for the blind. One of the ways they do that is through their immersion experiences. In these experiences, the sighted are blindfolded when doing an activity, whether it’s rock climbing, an obstacle course or dinner. The VIP guests, including the team captains, participated in the experience at Tall Trellis Brewery. The dinner was one to remember! It was an incredible experience for all, and gave them a glimpse of what it’s like to be blind, sharing the capabilities of the visually-impaired.

Chris and Nicole Carr (BlindSpotKC), Jessie & Ryan Triggs (Tall Trellis Brew), and Amy & Tom Gray (M48)

Grand Finale: Showcasing Brilliance

As the clock ticked closer to the final hours, teams put the finishing touches on their prototypes. Exhaustion mixed with exhilaration, knowing that their hard work was about to be showcased to a panel of esteemed judges and a captivated audience.

The competition reached its climax with the Judging finale, where each team had the opportunity to present their toy inventions and demonstrate their functionality. The stage was set for a series of presentations that left spectators in awe of the participants' ingenuity.

The judging panel, composed of Chris Carr (Blind Spot), John DeLeon (MTI Events/KC Blind All-Stars) and Lisa Maione (KCAI Institute) scrutinized each invention based on its originality, inclusivity, how many of the criteria points it hit, as well as the pitch itself.

The atmosphere was electric as the winners were announced, their innovative creations celebrated by a roaring crowd. This year TWO teams will move to Nationals this Fall, in North Little Rock, Arkansas.

However, the true victory lay in the transformative journey each participant had experienced throughout the competition—an exploration of human potential and the boundless power of creativity. Make48 served as a testament to the limitless possibilities that can emerge when brilliant minds unite, pushing the boundaries of innovation.

Now let’s get ready for a return to the Kansas School for the Blind next year!

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