Make A Thon

Chapman Students Solve Real-World Challenges at Shark Tank-style Competition Students addressed health care accessibility, childhood education and fitness at the annual Make-a-Thon at Fowler School of Engineering.

An automated shower head that keeps water at the perfect temperature.

Steerable car lights that increase visibility in dangerous off-road situations. 

A robot suit that rivals anything Disneyland Imagineers have dreamed up. 

Each of these projects was featured at Fowler School of Engineering’s second annual Make-a-Thon on May 9. The Shark Tank-esque competition provides Chapman students with various majors with the opportunity to design a project and present to a panel of judges for a chance to win a $1,000 prize. 

Make A Thon
Chloe Leis showcases her “VIDA” robot suit during the Make-a-Thon.

Students put their problem-solving skills to the test, taking on real-world challenges like health care accessibility, childhood education and fitness tracking. Students across campus were able to take advantage of the innovative tools—including 3D printers, laser cutters, robot arms and CNC machines—at the Design/Create/Innovate (DCI) Lab at Swenson Family Hall of Engineering. Mentors provided guidance to students along the way.

Over the course of a few hours, more than a dozen teams showcased their projects to judges Professor Marshall Toplansky, Leatherby Center Director Cynthia West, Karen Caswelch, chief operating officer and co-founder of Archytas Automation in Irvine, and Joshua Usher, program engineering manager at Phillips-Medisize in Costa Mesa. Students received actionable advice and feedback from these industry insiders that will help them further hone their projects. 

The judges were particularly impressed with a knee alignment device created by 2024 graduates Sophie Pelton, Leeor Oshri and Kourtney Barbour. The invention aims to help patients rehab their knees at home. 

Make A Thon
Brett Rabun (above) and Jude Abatangelo created an automated showerhead for the Make-a-Thon.

“We love your project,” Toplansky said while announcing the winner. “We thought the first thing you need to do is use that $1,000 to go out and get that patented. We think there is a huge opportunity here.”

Lucas Jeay-Bizot won $500 in second place for his project Quantoscope, which seeks to make quantum physics more accessible. His project utilizes polarized film as light filters so viewers can see quantum-level processes. 

“Usually you need very expensive equipment to showcase quantum physics,” Jeay-Bizot said, pointing out that his “experiment” is made of simple materials. 

Ellie Nguyen ’25, Gustas Mitkus ’26 and Elle Sanchez ’25 received $250 for SignBuddy, a glove that interprets sign language movements to allow people with hearing disabilities to translate sign language. Sensors on the glove measure the bend of each finger to translate the hand movement. 

Make A Thon
A knee alignment device won first prize at the Make-a-Thon.

“We really wanted people with disabilities to be able to connect with others, despite the communication barrier,” Mitkus said.

In addition to the winning entries, the other projects showcased the unique skill sets of students across campus and the interdisciplinary spirit of the competition. These included an automated pickleball racket that can be used to track performance and connect with other players and a small car that can move alongside track runners to help them keep a specific pace. 

In concluding the annual event, Professor Anthony Lemus highlighted the importance of competitions like the Make-a-Thon that encourage students to take part in hands-on projects to prepare them for a career in engineering. 

“We hope you take this experience going forward and this will always be something that you remember,” Lemus said. “We are excited to make this an annual ritual for our students.” 

Benjamin Brazil

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