What could you build in 100 hours with a pile of junk?

Would you ever think to make a bikini out of used computer keyboard keys? Or could you make a compost unit (with earth worms) to “recycle” dorm pizzas? These ladies did!

“Most Creative,” $300 Prize (tie) — New Age Multi-Colored Vase, created by Kathryn Wolf and Kuntal Patel

The Office of Corporate Relations (OCR) on the UW-Madison campus has an annual contest — The 100 Hours Challenge — wherein the big idea is that the students take used junk and from their stash alone, give or minus some tape or a nail, create something to bring to market, or something that inspires a better world. The intent of the contest is to inspire an entrepreneurial moment (paired with a deadline and competition).

To do it, undergraduate college students who opt to participate are given a $15 voucher good for items at the University Swap Shop. This year, since the shop is now located in Verona, a large sampling of store goodies (used goods that have already outlived their productive use on campus) was trucked to Sellery Hall. This is the “entrepreneurial residence hall” you might have heard of where The Entrepreneurial Residential Learning Community (ERLC) has placed 64 residents. This site served as the hub for the project.

The 2010 contest clock started with 65 entries submitted by students from numerous college institutions, some working in teams and some working independently. Participants picked out their goods, created their products, and then posted a summary on a public website, including photos or video, to convince the [OCR] judges of the product’s viability and use. And yes, creativity counted.

“Most Creative,” $300 prize (tie) — Bathing Suit, created by Rachel Resnick (a model shows the suit below)

I talked to Rachel a couple weeks after the contest was over and the winners were announced. She told me that she used medical face masks and computer keys to make her swimsuit. She got the inspiration when she saw the goodies. The top straps, as you can see, are from the face masks, and she agrees it’s probably not a good idea to wear it in water….

How did she put it all together? “We used a hot glue gun to glue the keyboard keys to the mask material,” she explained. She added that the contest reinforced her desire to pair her marketing skills with a future business venture.

“Most Social Value Generated,” $300 (tie) — The Dorm Disposer, created by Rachel Fassbender and Sara Fischer

I also had an opportunity to meet and speak with Rachel Fassbender, who created (with partner Sara Fischer) a compost system to use inside dorm rooms (you read that right) with parts she bought for less than $8. You put food into their contraption and, after the worms have their way with it, you take compost out of it. She said that a side benefit (besides the $300 prize money) was the self-confidence she gained from participating.

Rachel took the materials (above, left) and created the machine (above, right).

My suggestion to program coordinator Doug Bradley, OCR, was that he offers a second round — a 24-hour challenge — as a team-building exercise for recession-fatigued businesses, to get the focus back on the thrill of new discoveries and products. Why should these kids have all the fun?

He said he’d give that some serious thought, so stay tuned.

I can’t imagine what my staff would come up with. Really. I honestly can’t imagine it. But I’d love to find out. It’d be fun to take on Madison Magazine….

Other winners this year:

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