Make-a-Thon competition to gather health innovation ideas


Aki Akhauri

The main entrance to Carle Foundation Hospital on Saturday. The hospital is sponsoring the Health Make-a-Thon, a competition in which participants submit a potential solution to a health-based issue with broad societal impact.

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

The Carle Illinois College of Medicine is holding the first Health Make-a-Thon competition, a contest available to anyone who wants to submit ideas for improving human health. The submission deadline is March 11.

Submission ideas must address issues within the health domain and propose an idea that has potential for broad societal impact.

Twenty finalists will present and defend their ideas to a panel of judges, called the “dolphin tank,” according to Martin Burke, professor in LAS and associate dean of research at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and a live audience at the Make-a-Thon event at 6 p.m. on April 13 at the Beckman Institute.

Among the judges are entrepreneurs, professors and physicians. They are experts from the community, Carle, the University, companies, foundations and venture firms. The audience will also have the opportunity to ask questions after each presentation.

Applications will retain copyright to their submitted ideas. The University will become a stakeholder for the winning idea if University resources, including the Health Maker Lab, were used to further the idea.

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Winners will get access to the Health Maker Lab Network, mentorship by University experts and opportunities to attend educational workshops on topics such as business planning, prototype design and fabrication, communication skills and business planning.

Winners will also receive a $10,000 spending account, which can be used at any maker labs in the Health Maker Lab network. They will be expected to create a prototype of their idea.

“Bottom line, we plan to powerfully enable all of the winning innovators with lots of resources to maximally enable their goal of transforming their idea into real societal impact,” Burke said.

Burke said the Health Maker Lab aims to provide sufficient coaching and resources for finalists to prepare for the competition in April.

“The goal of the Make-a-Thon is to democratize health innovation,” Burke said in an email. “We want to empower everyone with a great idea to (meaningfully) contribute to the health innovation process.”

Burke said the competition is open to all of Champaign County, not just to University students because he believes anybody can have an innovative idea, including community members or citizen-scientists. He said these people may be missing out because of traditional barriers that remain in the health innovation process.

“People may think they aren’t qualified to enter a competition like this,” said Libby Kacich, director of communications and marketing for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, in an email. “We disagree. If you, or someone close to you, has experienced a health challenge of any kind, you are well-qualified to submit your idea.”

There will be an upcoming community event at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Common Ground Co-Op in Urbana, where people can learn more information about the Make-a-Thon.

“There are 7.7 billion people on our planet — and perhaps the one thing we all share in common is that everyone wants to be healthy,” Burke said.

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