Have an interesting or innovative solution for real-world issues or a knack for turning technology into something that makes life easier? Then perhaps Infosys Foundation USA’s Infy Maker Contest is for you. The contest, which began last month, invites student and adult Makers alike to design projects that use technology to provide an innovative solution to problems in any number of areas. These include energy, health/medical, robotics, education, social change, AI, electronics, and more.
The contest is geared toward underrepresented communities such as people of color and students in non-affluent school districts in an effort to give them the same opportunities as other more affluent schools. However, any student between the ages of 9 and 18 is encouraged to apply. Infosys’ contest is one of the largest Maker Awards programs ($1 million) in the US and is backed by the White House under President Obama’s Maker Initiative and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program, which is being implemented in schools all over the country.
Girls and women are also encouraged to participate, since female professionals are severely underrepresented in STEM fields, making up less than 25% of the STEM-related workforce in the U.S.
I had a chance to ask Infosys representative Kaustav Mitra a few questions about the contest and if he thought it would encourage young girls to become interested in STEM and in the Maker community. “Equity and inclusion are part of the charter of Infosys Foundation USA,” says Mitra. “Four of the ten winners of our last cycle were entries led by women. Nothing would make us happier than if young girls were to look at these amazing role models and decide that they too wanted to be scientists and inventors.” He adds that “We truly hope the Infy Maker Awards will attract and inspire entrants from all underrepresented communities.”
Of course, since adults are encouraged to apply alongside kids, this raises the question of who will be the better Makers. Mitra’s answer does not disappoint:
Children are Makers by nature, they find great joy in any immersive, creative experience. They bring to the table huge optimism, and fewer constraints, to solve problems in imaginative ways.
He continues, “On the other hand, adult Makers are able to leverage a deeper understanding of complex problems to craft innovative solutions. To that extent, comparing their Maker skills may be a bit of an apples and oranges question. The reason Infosys Foundation USA launched both adult and youth categories in the Infy Maker Awards is that we do not believe creativity and innovation are defined by age but rather by our inherent human instinct to make products and improve lives.”
So what do the winners receive? For students, 25 winners will receive $1,000 and the opportunity for their school to receive a grant of $10,000 to create their own Makerspace. For adults, 10 winners will receive $10,000 in prize money. Those looking to participate can head over to the Infy Maker website, where you can find information on the rules, signup forms, and video entries on past winners. The contest deadline is February 1st.