MakeOHI/O 2021 arrives with new features

Posted: February 16, 2021
Students at the 2019 makeathon

This time last year, more than 150 engineering students planned to gather at the Ohio Union en masse for MakeOHI/O, The Ohio State University’s official innovation student showdown.

The pandemic, however, forced event organizers to move everything online.

MakeOHI/O returns again virtually in 2021, taking place from March 5-7. Registration opened on January 15 and runs until March 4. 

In a show of the program’s ongoing resiliency (and popularity), students can expect new features and prizes showcasing what program leaders learned after the 2020 event switched from in-person to virtual so quickly.

“Whiplash is a great way to put it,” said Julia Armstrong, OHI/O Informal Learning program director. “It meant completely reinventing our delivery method, while always aiming for the same end goals of students' success through informal and experiential learning with industry support.”

This year, organizers are prepared and ready to keep taking the event further. During MakeOHI/O, students test their technological skills in competitive teams, working over a weekend to design, build, and demonstrate their projects to a live audience of students, faculty, and representatives from tech companies.

Julia Armstrong

“By moving to virtual events, we’re learning a new way to do things,” said Armstrong. “This may very well turn into an option for our future events. A mix of in-person and remote participants, mentors, and judges. The opportunity to grow the events in size and geographic reach is around the corner.”

She also stressed how the event is open to undergraduates and graduates not only from Ohio State, but regional universities as well. There are usually participants from the University of Cincinnati, Purdue, Kent State University and more. 

New this year, participating teams win free kits before the event with components of their choosing for building their hardware designs, said electrical and computer engineering (ECE) student Jacob Woods, MakeOHI/O marketing lead. Teams are also submitting video recordings of their project work results. 

“This year, we have opened up our chat platform early for team formation and equipment help," he said. "With this, people new to makeathons can join up and form teams with people of the same interests, or people more experienced."

During the event, students will also have mentors on-call to help with any technical questions.

“Finally, we have extended our making time from 24 to 48 hours,” said Woods. “This allows for makers to have more time to learn a skill and use it, or just more time to take a break.”

MakeOHI/O is also collaborating with the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) so students can explore biomedical-related topics, with specialized judges and prizes, or build a traditional maker project for the competition.

Armstrong said the goal is to share the projects from the event with faculty and administration.

“Together, this year we hope to inspire the next round of university students to explore hardware hacks that address real-world problems and make a difference,” she added.

The event is a favorite for many ECE students, and this year is no different.

“Every year brings amazing projects and ideas to the table and I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with,” said ECE student Edward Lui. “It is a great way to have fun with your team to build something. There are prizes, networking opportunities, and it looks great on your resume.”

MakeOHI/O lab manager and ECE student Chris Murray said the event is very core to what engineers do.

“As engineers, we are often faced with difficult problems. We also are given limited resources and time to solve these problems. This year’s event will be a great test,” he said. “This is by far my favorite event I have ever been a part of. The first year I competed, I was placed on a team with four random peers. None of us knew each other. Two students were very doubtful about their major choice. After building a successful project, they both became reassured in their major choice and have since graduated and now work as engineers.”

As an event organizer, Murray was also able to give tech advice to new students.

“I assisted a team that had minimal experience with electronics. By giving them little nudges in the right direction, they ended up creating a project that won the top prize. It was a truly magical experience to see their progression over the course of the event and those wonderful moments will stay with us forever," he said.

ECE student and MakeOHI/O treasurer Max Fojtik went from participating to organizing as well.

“I remember my first time doing the hackathon it was super overwhelming, but a lot of fun. If you are a first-year, this makeathon is perfect. You get your toes wet without being thrown into the deep end," he said. "Also, you get to keep the components afterward, so it is super useful for later projects.”

The great aspect of MakeOHI/O, Fojtik said, is the only real pressure is what students put on themselves.

“This is completely different than a lab, where you have to learn and apply in two hours and get graded on it,” he said.

ECE student Ben Kawalski said it prepares you for the real world and shows companies you have experience after graduation.

"This is easily the best way to get actual experience while at Ohio State," he said. "Your classes can only prepare you to deal with challenges to a certain degree; getting to use these skills to create something is what engineers do."

MakeOHI/O is hosted by OHI/O, a program dedicated to fostering tech culture at Ohio State, and is made possible with the help of the Electronics Club leadership.

by Ryan Horns, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Category: Students