SUNY Oswego’s first ever Grand Challenges Makeathon will take place Feb. 22 to 24 and encourage students to put their talents and interests into action to support the concept of Fresh Water for All.

The ongoing two-year interdisciplinary effort for the Grand Challenges initiative, Fresh Water for All is designed to advance the common good and contribute at the highest levels of theory and application and, in the words of the college's "Tomorrow" strategic plan, to "… finding solutions to the grand challenges of our times." Fresh Water for All notes this pressing concern affects the health of people and the planet itself.

The Makeathon will be similar in concept to a hackathon, but with a wider variety of creative projects encouraged. This means participants can show up in a team or individually, with ideas or just hoping to help, eventually forming teams of two or more people and working together to do as much as they can within the limited time period.

The kickoff, 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, in 215 Penfield Library, will feature Caitlin E. Moriarty of the Tech Garden in Syracuse, which supports startups and hosts hackathons, holding an ideation workshop promoting brainstorming and collaboration.

“I hope that makes it really accessible,” Sharona Ginsberg, the learning technologies librarian who coordinates Penfield’s Makerspace activities, said of the kickoff event. “That would help people who are showing up with a skill but aren’t sure what they want to do.”

Participants “can go wherever they’re comfortable working with their teams and work at whatever pace they’re comfortable with,” Ginsberg said.

The Makeathon will culminate with teams giving five-minute presentations of their projects at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, in the Marano Campus Center auditorium (room 132), where the judges will select the winners.

The winning team will receive a grand prize of $250 to be awarded as Amazon gift cards. Two teams of runners-up will receive $50 to be awarded as Amazon gift cards. The prizes are made possible by a Grand Challenges mini-grant awarded to Penfield Library.

Any creative, collaborative project is encouraged, which could include such avenues as apps/software, games, short films, product prototypes, websites, videos in the style of commercials or public service announcements, podcast-style audio recording or radio show or other ideas.

Judges will evaluate projects based on criteria that include creativity; use of research, data and citations; community impact; business and promotional considerations; interdisciplinary connections and collaboration across different fields of work and study; and feasibility as a solution addressing some aspect of the Grand Challenge.

Interdisciplinary teams are encouraged; everyone has a talent or background that could contribute. For example, a creative writing major could craft a script filmed by a cinema and screen studies major, with visuals created by a graphic design major and a score from a music major -- or any number of other combinations.

The Sunday presentations will be open to anyone who wants to attend, whether they participated in the Makeathon or not. Teams will have access to a computer with internet access, a projector and microphones.

“For students, I want them to have fun and enjoy the event, and to come away feeling like they accomplished something,”, Ginsberg said. “They could even develop something to put into their portfolio and talk to potential employers about.”

As with hackathons, teams are encouraged to go further and polish their projects after the event if they want, Ginsberg said.

For more information or to sign up, visit the Grand Challenges Makeathon website.