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The first-place winner of GoFundMe’s “make-a-thon” contest was a project for an ultralight aircraft being built by two University of the Pacific mechanical engineering students.

GoFundMe’s “make-a-thon” contest ended this past week and we have a winner. Actually, three winners. The crowdfunding company awarded $10,000 to three teams of makers for projects posted on the site. The GoFundMe community voted for its favorite projects.clk GoFundMes Make a thon Winners Announced

First place went to an ultralight airplane project. Second place was awarded to a sand car project, and third place went to two Nebraska two high school students building a robot. The winners got $5,000, $3,500, and $1,500 respectively.

The winning ultralight team is comprised of University of the Pacific seniors Patrick Green, Tyler Sandelin, and Michael Conway. Winning the contest was a thrill and a relief, said Michael.

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The University of Pacific’s ultralight in an early stage of development.

“We were just shocked,” said Michael. “I couldn’t believe we got this opportunity.”

The ultralight project is the trio’s senior project at Stockton, California’s University of the Pacific so they had a lot riding on the plane. They are students in the school’s mechanical engineering department. But as graduating seniors, their success has sparked ideas about further developing the plane and starting a business.

The plane is built from an aircraft-grade aluminum frame, Baltic birch ribs, and steel landing gear. By definition, an ultralight plane has to be weigh less than 254 pounds. The team’s feathery aircraft will be powered by an F33, one-cylinder, 30hp engine.

Michael said he and his partners choose GoFundMe because they were looking for an easy way to raise money. What he liked best was the ability to access funds as they came in rather than wait until the project was fully funded.

“That really helped,” he said. “We didn’t have to wait.”

Before the contest, they had raised about $7,000 of their $10,000 goal. The $5,000 prize pushed them over the top.

“Now we have all the money we need,” said Michael.

He said they’ll use the extra funds for additional safety items and flying lessons. If you’re going to build a plane it helps to know how to fly it. The three students were planning to get flying lessons anyway, but the prize money means they don’t have to figure out how to pay for them.

Michael said the plane will be finished in about four weeks and then it’s off into the wild blue yonder.

Pacific Senior Design Sand Car by Zach Wiberg

Pacific Senior Design Sand Car Visualization by Zach Wiberg

The make-a-thon contest was good to University of the Pacific students. Another team of students (Zach Wiberg, Raffy Escalona, Vinh Hoang, and Mike Baron) entered their senior design project into the contest and snagged second place. Their project involves taking an existing single seat sand car frame and modifying it to accommodate a six-link, independent rear suspension, drive components, and a new street bike engine.

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Damian McAlevy and Cody Escritt’s robot is headed to the Vex Robotics Championship thanks to winning on GoFundMe.

The third place winners are two high school students from the tiny town of Ravenna, Neb. The prize money and funds they raised elsewhere will enable the two to travel to the Vex Robotics High School World  Championship  in Anaheim, Calif. next month. The school’s robotics team is in its second year and they are first students to make it into the world championships.

“Winning was really exciting,” said Damian McAlevy, one part of the Ravenna robotics team that also includes Cody Escritt. “Now we’re definitely going.”

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


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