North Bay Make-A-Thon gets creative juices flowing

Dozens of budding inventors stayed up all night at the first-ever North Bay Make-A-Thon in Rohnert Park this weekend to come up with a variety of ideas for new apps, gadgets, toys and more.|

After more than 24 hours inside a cavernous building at Rohnert Park's Sonoma Mountain Village, the dozens of participants in this weekend's first North Bay Make-A-Thon surprisingly showed no signs of slowing down.

Split into teams of between three and six members, the budding creators - kids and adults alike - worked quickly to do what the event called for: Make, well, whatever.

Elevator designs, mobile apps, kinetic sculptures and an epinephrine pen half the size of standard ones were just some of the projects presented when the overnight event ended Sunday afternoon.

“The heart here was amazing. There were teams up all night,” said organizer Amee Sas, the executive director of SoCo Nexus, a nonprofit business incubator based in Rohnert Park. “Red Bull actually came in the middle of the night and gave us more (energy drinks). We needed a refill.”

The team that won the $1,500 first-place prize in the competition came up with a way to get more coffee drinkers to use reusable cups.

The group of four recent college graduates had the idea to put a chip on the underside of a mug that could be encoded, via an app, with its owner's coffee order.

The customer could then skip the order line at their local coffee shop and simply hand their cup to the cashier to scan upon arrival.

“The idea behind this is, yes, definitely reusable coffee cups exist,” said UC Davis grad Travis Pereira, 23, a member of the winning team. “But this is a good way to incentivize people because the cup doesn't just belong to you; it has a little piece of information about you, too.”

The idea came to Pereira's team - the majority of which was comprised by Sonoma State grads - when they were at a coffee shop one day and noticed the disposal bins overflowing with paper cups.

They worked all night Saturday into Sunday morning to develop their idea. Along with the $1,000 prize, the winners will get mentoring and support from SoCo Nexus to make it a reality.

They were one of 28 teams to enter the competition and one of 20 that were able to complete a finished project.

Second place went to a trio that included sixth-grader Alicia Mulder for a “portable desktop shadow puppet theater kit” for students to express creativity.

Third place was a tie between two teams. One proposed a dashboard-mounted system that would alert hearing-impaired drivers when emergency sirens were sounding near them.

The second team came up with the concept of a bike lock that can only be unlocked by scanning a fingerprint.

Organizers hope the weekendlong creativity session will be the first of many in the North Bay. The idea for the event grew out of a brainstorming session last year, Sas said.

“We said, ‘What could we do in the North Bay that could bridge education and innovation?'?” she explained.

Sponsors included several local businesses and the Sonoma State University School of Business and Economics. Planning and execution of the event was carried out by SSU entrepreneurship students.

“This event really speaks right to my heart,” said William Silver, dean of the SSU School of Business and Economics and one of the judges.

You can reach Staff Writer Christi Warren at 521-5205 or On Twitter @SeaWarren.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The first-place team won a prize of $1,500. The figure in an earlier version of the story was incorrect. This story has also been updated correct the names of Amee Sas and William Silver, and to describe more precisely Silver's title, the composition of the winning team and the role of SSU entrepreneurship students in planning and executing the event.

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