Every maker who shares a project is amazing, and the same can be said collectively of our maker community, which supports and values the work of makers. We hope these awards help gain recognition in the broader society for the creative and technical contributions of makers.
The Amazing Maker Awards celebrate what makers do — for different reasons and in different areas of endeavor. The winners are an eclectic group of makers, just like what you’d see at a Maker Faire. What they have in common is that each one taps into a deep human urge to create and make real something that starts out as an idea. We are grateful that they shared their work with us. We truly believe in the power of sharing, which motivates others to create and make.
In the pages that follow, we present the 26 winners by category, as well as specialty award winners, who will split a $22,000 prize pool. Check out the showcase of winners online to get a fuller understanding of these projects and their makers, along with video demonstrations. (I hope maker educators and parents will share this showcase with students as a way to encourage them to generate their own ideas and start making.)
We are particularly grateful to our many judges* who reviewed the projects. David Wells who used to run the makerspace at the New York Hall of Science wrote: “It was so nice seeing all the cool projects. It is inspiring to see people doing stuff!!” Judges Gary Rohrbacher and Ann Filson, authors of Designing for CNC and professors at the University of Kentucky, wrote: “Gary and I just finished judging our projects. What a nice way to end the day! So inspiring.” Our team at Make: reviewed the rankings produced by judges and selected the top winners.
We are proud to have launched the Amazing Maker Awards, aka the Makeys — and we encourage you to enter your project for the 2023 awards.
—Dale Dougherty, CEO of Make: Community
*JUDGES — Matthew Wettergreen (Rice University), Debra Ansell (maker/educator), Lydia Cline (author), Joan Horvath (author), Ryan Spurlock (Human Made makerspace), Ann Filson and Gary Rohrbacher (authors/educators), Jen Fox (Microsoft), Suchit Jain (Solidworks), Cathy Chen (Fab Lab El Paso), Robert Kundel (Restorer Tools), Julie Darling (author/educator), Hideo Tamura (O’Reilly/Make: Japan), Julie Legault (author/educator), David Wells (museum educator), and Nicole Shuman (AmeriCorps VISTA maker).
Make:cast – Interview with Top Winners
Top Prize & 1st Prize Education Category
SHE BUILDS ROBOTS Christina Ernst
She Build Robots is the kind of website that creator Christina Ernst wanted when she was younger: Building engineering skills with a focus on creativity over academics.
Currently numbering around nine projects, shebuildsrobots.org is a free educational resource for learning robotics and e-textiles. Designed to appeal to teen girls, it features color-changing skirts, musical cupcake toppers, tea-brewing robots, and more. As Ernst put it: “Less Big Bang Theory and more what-if-Coco-Chanel-knew-about-conductive-thread.”
Working directly with teachers in the Chicago area to get kits into classrooms and after-school programs, Ernst’s ultimate goal is to give girls confidence that there’s a place for them in STEM.
“Students absolutely have the capacity to be fascinated by topics they once perceived as boring,” she says. “Additionally, tone matters a lot when introducing students to a subject that may intimidate them; colloquial and approachable usually beats lofty and academic.”
1st Prize, Artistic Category
❤️💔❤️— AN ARTISTIC EXPLORATION OF CONTEMPORARY COURTSHIP Kenzie Housego
Contemporary dating has a near inescapable digital component, whether it’s online dating profiles, taking the perfect selfie, or trying to parse sometimes cryptic emoji responses to texts. With ❤️💔❤️, Kenzie Housego set out to explore digital courtship language and symbols using five 2D pieces, augmenting traditional embroidery and craft with LED displays, motion sensors, and interactive chatbots. The effect is engaging and “highlights how romantic communication is transmitted, interpreted, and misinterpreted through technology.”
1st Prize, Technical Category
QNINJA — REAL-TIME PCR Shingo Hisakawa and Mariko Hisakawa
Academia likes to tell us that “legitimate science” is done in labs and needs high-level degrees, but there’s a rich history of punk scientists getting down ’n’ dirty in home labs with DIY equipment. Inspired by Covid-19, qNinja continues the tradition as a low-cost, open source PCR gene analyzer that you can build and use at home.
A polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is a method for turning a small amount of DNA into a large amount of DNA so you have more material to analyze. By adding fluorescent dye and watching how samples react to light, you can identify whether genes, like Covid-19, are present.
For the Hisakawas, getting their 2-year labor of love working was a global effort, from an optics expert in Kathmandu to a Chinese company in Guangdong helping with custom heaters and optical filters. “Everyone over the world can solve gene-related problems by making tools, and designing biosensors by themselves in the open-source circle.”
1st Prize, Social Impact
CODED BREATH — A NON-INVASIVE DIAGNOSTIC APPROACH Caleb Kodama
Inspired by a childhood bout with a difficult-to-diagnose case of fungal pneumonia, high school student Caleb Kodama is developing an AI-powered diagnostic tool to help others diagnose the condition. An artificial lung simulates real-world breathing while an array of sensors and a trained AI model act as an electronic nose to sniff out the simulated fungal particles (aka essential oils during testing).
“Effectively, my artificial lung breathes in the synthesized fungal pneumonia and breathes out to the E-Nose that confirms a fungal pneumonia diagnosis.”
Community Choice Award
NIKOLA TESLA INTERACTIVE ANIMATRONIC BUST Daniel Springwald
Intrigued after reading a biography of Nikola Tesla, Daniel Springwald decided to build this interactive animatronic bust to spread the word about the ahead-of-his-time inventor. Servomotors control movement of the head, eyes, and mouth, while a webcam and microphone capture questions. An AIML chatbot sends responses to a text-to-speech program to keep the conversation going.
Young Maker Award
IC4U3 Selin Alara Ornek
IC4U is a prototype robot guide dog to help people with visual impairments. Currently in its third iteration from 16-year-old Selin Alara Ornek, the four-legged robotic companion accepts voice commands for directional movement and for sitting, lying down, and standing up. But a guide dog that blindly walks its human into traffic isn’t exactly helpful, so IC4U3 uses sensors to detect sounds and focus in on them with the onboard camera for object detection. As an added bonus, you can chat with it via Dialogflow.
2nd Place, $250
Alana Balagot and Federico Tobon
Four experimental robotic instruments are controlled wirelessly with a MIDI keyboard and LED matrix display in four different modes.
3rd Place, $100
MUSIC DERBY Tetsuji Katsuda
Seven robots assigned to musical notes race to music to see who can reach the finish line first.
2nd Place, $250
AUTOMATIC TABLE SAW FENCE, ROUTER LIFT, AND JOINERY MAKER Richard Want
This digitally controlled table saw fence and router table lift is capable of making customized joints and performing common woodworking processes with high precision.
3rd Place, $100
WORLD’S LIGHTEST FOLDABLE COROPLAST TANDEM CANOE Hong Wong
A DIY, super lightweight, foldable 10-foot-long Coroplast canoe for two.
Over the Top Award
SERVO WORDCLOCK Moritz von Sivers and Fabian Thum
In this variation of the popular word clock, letters are projected from the back onto a screen. Each letter is connected to a linear actuator that can be moved back and forth by a servo so that the projection changes size and focus.
Playful Maker Award
GIGANTY’S BOUNCING INFINITY GADGET Sarah Gonsalves
A 20-foot-tall, hand-cranked machine that tosses 5,000 superballs into a bounce chamber where they careen around and bounce off musical cymbals to make analog music.
2nd Place, $250
TAPEBLOCKS: CREATIVE CIRCUIT MAKING FOR ALL Kirsten Ellis
TapeBlocks is a toolkit to learn about and create circuits. Each block is easy to make and acts as a component in a circuit using conductive tape instead of wires.
Science Fair Awards
HOW PLANTS SHARE NUTRIENTS Sofia Egan
An electronic simulation of how trees share nutrients through mycorrhizal networks.
AIR QUALITY POP-UP PAVILION: RETHINKING SHARED SPACES Avye Couloute
The Air Quality Pavilion uses an internal sensor to monitor and then trigger various reactions to CO₂ levels, including opening and closing motorized shutter walls, an automatic sliding skylight, a ventilation fan, and color-coded warning lights.
Social Impact Category
2nd Place, $250
RGB LED SCROLLING FACEMASK Lorraine Underwood
A facemask that uses two 8×8 RGB LED grids and speech-to-text software to scroll what you’re saying across your mask.
3rd Place, $100
BUDDY-KUN — COMMUNICATION ROBOT FOR NURSING HOME Yoshiharu Kawamura
Buddy-kun is a robot that talks, instructs and guides singing and gymnastics, and plays musical instruments in kindergartens and nursing homes.
DIT Community Build Award
Andrew Rudolph, Ian Cole, Mike Bakula, Harry Armstrong, Bryan Maier, Allen Paschel, Jeff Driscoll, Mike Gellatly, Andrea Gellatly, Tracy Lunquist, Steven Erickson, Rey Lim, Mike King, and Bob Houston
When the pandemic hit and makers from MakerFX couldn’t get together indoors for big events, they brought the party outside with their giant mobile boombox bike!
Makers in Space Award
ALPHA CUBESAT — REACHING FOR THE STARS
Joshua Umansky-Castro, Andy Tan, Lauren Greenhill, Eleanor Glenn, Gillis Lowry, Andrew Filo, and Alex Burke
Alpha is a 1U CubeSat designed to deploy a spin-stabilized, free-flying light sail fitted with ChipSats. Its goal: to demonstrate that light sail technologies are suitable for interstellar propulsion.
STOP FACE TOUCHING DEVICE Chen Lu
Early in the pandemic, health officials suggested refraining from touching your face in case it was a way of transmitting the virus. So Chen Lu built this fully functional — yet preposterously impractical — device to help him stop.
3D HANGMAN GAME Lochlan Fitzgerald
CRAFTIN’ THE TELECRAFSMAN Ray Rumore
GHOSTBUSTER PKE METER REAL Moonmakers
SMART CITY OF VUKOVAR Davor Sijanovic
EDUCATIONAL ROBOT ARM Isaac Venezia
Thanks to all who participated this year!
Written by Make: Editors