Cardboard Hack-a-thon engages student creativity

A solar cooker made during the event provides a cheap and fuel-less alternative to cooking (photo courtesy of Shumaila Ahmad).
A solar cooker made during the event provides a cheap and fuel-less alternative to cooking (photo courtesy of Shumaila Ahmad).

On Feb. 28, Mason’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship collaborated with AE Green from Auxiliary Enterprises  to host a Cardboard Hack-a-thon in the Engineering building.

Part of a series of similar events titled Hack Mason, the hack-a-thon provided visitors a unique opportunity to create various inventions out of cardboard that was collected around campus, as shown in the video below.

Video by Silvia Pak

“If you go behind any building at the end of the day, it’s cardboard, cardboard, cardboard,” said David Miller, director of the Mason Innovation Lab and an Entrepreneurship instructor. “We don’t know if anyone’s ever done this in the world. As much as we support innovators and creators, we try to do things ourselves where, maybe, we don’t know exactly what we’re doing. But we want to try it.”

Although more traditional hack-a-thons—generally, events where people try to build something quickly—have been hosted at Mason before, this is the first one that deals with cardboard rather than machines. Cardboard, Miller explained, was both useful and durable; it made sense to use an abundant resource productively rather than discarding.

The event’s goal was to have participants work both individually and collaboratively to create products that could improve different areas of society. According to Miller, the Center for Social Entrepreneurship aims to give people the tools to make positive change in the world.

Yet, with such a strong focus on entrepreneurship, the event was open to any and all groups who wanted to test their creative capabilities.

“We invited all groups of people,” said Dan Waxman, Sustainability Mangager of AE Green. “Reaching whoever we can with these types of events is awesome, and we’re supporting the Mason IDEA through innovation.”

AE Green is an umbrella sustainability program for AE, mangaging departments around the university in order to bring quality support services such as food and housing. By working with the Hack Mason program, AE Green is helping students get involved in that Mason IDEA: creating projects that are innovative, diverse, entrepreneurial, and accessible to different communities.

One of the event’s most notable creations was a solar cooker made by Shumaila Ahmad, an Applied Information Technology major at Mason. Solar cookers are inexpensive solar-powered alternatives to outdoor cooking, and are slowly gaining more acceptance today.

“We experiment, and we learn and whatever we do next, we do next,” Miller said.

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