Innovators of all ages were awarded top honors in the Robert C. Byrd Institute’s 2020 West Virginia Makes Festival Design Challenge and People’s Choice Awards.
This year, the annual statewide celebration of creativity and ingenuity featured a month of virtual making, culminating in a live streamed awards ceremony Oct. 27.
In the Design Challenge adult division, Thomas Stewart of Charleston won first place and $300 for his Spectraswitch, a power switch that uses fiber optics instead of electrical currents.
In the Design Challenge youth division, Adia Hayes, a student at the Explorer Academy in Huntington, won for her Shoe Dec concept, which uses leftover mask-making material to create custom shoe decorations. Hayes also will receive a $300 cash prize.
Appalachian Manufacturing Awards were presented to challengers whose ideas were judged to have the most commercial potential. Winners in this category will receive up to $2,500 in technical assistance from RCBI to help develop their products.
Kennedy Fisher and Annabelle Ward, sixth-grade students at Barboursville Middle School, took top honors in the youth category for their No Waste Toothpaste Brush, an all-in-one toothpaste dispenser and brush. Nate Ardnt of Inwood captured the adult prize for Nate’s Handcrafted Nets, which are specialty fishing nets he and his father create.
In the People’s Choice category, more than 800 votes were cast by members of the public for their favorite Design Challenger and school. Both winners will receive new 3D printers and starter packages.
Winfield Elementary student Nathaniel Harmon won a People’s Choice Award for his design The Vent Safe, which is a safe camouflaged as a heating and air-conditioning vent that can be hidden in a wall.
“Last year, our teacher took our class on a field trip to Marshall University during the Makes Festival. I was inspired to make an invention of my own,” Harmon said in his presentation. “Actually, I already came up with this idea, but the Makes Festival showed me what I needed to do in order to make the idea more of a reality.”
Barboursville Middle was the top vote-getter in the school category and will receive the other 3D printer and starter package.
In addition, each youth competitor will receive a free one-year membership to the Maker Vault, RCBI’s community makerspace, along with one hour of technical assistance each month.
The 2020 West Virginia Makes Festival was made possible through the financial support of Edward Tucker Architects, the West Virginia Manufacturers Association and the Marshall University Research Corporation.