Innovation Hub hosts Make48 national competition in North Little Rock
Eight teams from across the country faced off at Winrock’s Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub for a soon-to-be-televised competition aimed at tackling one of the most complex social challenges in the U.S.: How to help members of the nation’s vast unhoused population successfully transition into new homes.
Make48 is a national invention competition, recorded for future broadcast on the This Old House Makers Channel, where teams are given 48 hours to come up with an idea, and create a prototype, marketing materials, and a pitch for a chance to win $10,000. The goal is to foster imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. The three-day contest at the Hub’s makerspace in North Little Rock builds on the success of a Arkansas-statewide Make48 competition held late last year.
Teams selected for the national competition were drawn from Kansas City, Kansas; Anderson, Indiana; Beloit, Wisconsin; and Bentonville, Arkansas.
Innovation Hub Director Errin Stanger “played a significant role in bringing Make48 to North Little Rock,” Make48 wrote on its website earlier in the year. “She has worked closely with Make48’s CEO, local educational institutions, businesses, and community leaders to make the event possible.”
A village of tiny homes is currently being built in Pulaski County, Arkansas, that replicates Alan Graham’s Community First! Village in Austin, Texas. The Pulaski County community village will have up to 400 tiny homes that are designed to become “forever homes” for previously unhoused people, Stanger said. The village will also have wraparound services including medical and mental health care, dignified work opportunities, an organic garden, bus stops and more. The “Tiny Homes” theme was created with the goal of challenging contestants to help the chronically homeless ─ individuals who have been on the streets for more than a year ─ transition into their home and new community.
Stanger said Hub staff worked hard to prepare for the big event, which provided another great opportunity to showcase the Hub’s state-of-the-art facilities and its youth-focused Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math programming to a national audience.
“North Little Rock is thrilled to host this meaningful challenge and we want to give a big thank you to Make48 and all of the individuals and sponsors who make this possible,” Stanger said. “We are humbled and grateful.”
This year’s national competition is Make48’s seventh annual. This year’s theme asked creators to respond to the needs of unhoused people in Central Arkansas through “Innovation within Tiny Homes.” The assignment challenged teams to help resolve specific but common issues that arise when people are transitioning for the first time into more permanent spaces, such as the relatively inexpensive, easier-to-maintain tiny homes that are becoming increasingly available to accommodate and integrate unhoused people, especially in or near urban communities.
Loneliness is an example of one such challenge. Displaced or unhoused people can take comfort through their own community networks, or through maintaining pets. But keeping those ties and hanging onto pets can be difficult when moving to a new home. Some Make48 contestants also chose to tackle creative solutions for storing cleaning products in a tiny house.
“There’s a lot of potential for some of the ideas created by Make48 teams to be used in retirement communities, dorm rooms, or any other kind of larger community moving into single locations where they don’t necessarily know each other,” said Adam Kittrell, a Winrock senior associate and shop foreman at the Hub.
Kittrell has become a Make48 expert, joining a team including makers, Computer Aided Design specialists, metalworkers and YouTube master craftspeople who assisted the teams through the challenge. Representatives of other makerspaces, along with staff from major corporate sponsors including Carhartt and Black+Decker also joined to bring the teams’ ideas to life for the Tiny Homes challenge.
Makers and the experts assisting the teams had a chance to visit a local manufacturer, Thermafoam, located in Jacksonville, Arkansas, that created the first tiny home for the Pulaski County Community Village built on Pulaski County land. Local architects from Willams and Dean, who designed the tiny home, were onsite to visit with the teams. Contestants said they were surprised at how much furniture and other belongings such homes could fit.
Before the event, Stanger spoke about the challenge and what it means to her and the community.
“I’m inspired by the activity happening within Central Arkansas surrounding tiny home villages. We are focused on ensuring our homeless have a better quality of life and why would we not want to include incredible design features? Wouldn’t you want that in your home?”
She added: “Make48 is the perfect platform to explore innovation and challenge individuals to think creatively and critically around this incredible theme. This is one very special way that we can hopefully make a difference for someone who may need it most.”
The competition will be televised as a four-episode series in partnership with This Old House Makers Channel on the Roku network. To learn more about Make48, please visit www.make48.com.