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Horn Entrepreneurship

Advancing Innovative Projects with the Make It Happen Challenge

The MakerGym got off to a quiet but impactful start this past spring semester with the introduction of the Make It Happen Challenge. The inaugural cohort successfully completed work that further advanced their innovative product ideas. The challenge is designed to assist those students with design, funding or fabrication help and to gain access to the training, tools, materials and mentoring needed. The Make It Happen Challenge is co-presented by the UD MakerGym and Horn Entrepreneurship in both spring and fall semesters.


Samuel Koeck, EO22 of Coral Connectors, set out to improve coral resilience with a design of a module that mimics the structural complexity of reef systems. “I found the process of designing 3-D structures from 2-D designs does not literally translate, but the help of different artificial reef users, landscape architects, and coral researchers guided me  to define my design and narrow down exactly what qualities of live corals were important to replicate.” Samuel encourages others to bring their ideas so they too can experience the conception of product development. He credits the challenge and UD MakerGym staff for the semester-long support he received while
working through the entrepreneurial concepts like the scalability and manufacturing costs of his product.


Sierra RyanWallick, BE22 and Michelle Yatvitskiy, AS22 of UP Cycle Design had a different goal in mind for the challenge. Having participated in many of the Horn Entrepreneurship programs held at the Venture Development Center, UP Cycle Design had already produced several cause-themed cloth stickers with their partners. In signing up for the Make It Happen Challenge, their goal was to establish a production line that would allow the company flexibility and scalability.  Comparing the advantages offered by the MakerGym and the VDC, Sierra found, “The MakerGym is very prototyping based and hands-on, while the VDC is focused on interviews and exploring with your customers.  So, it's a great mix to know both ways of approaching entrepreneurship!”

After a slight pivot and updated equipment, UP Cycle design is beginning to see a steady revenue stream.

Sophia Angeletakis, HS22, and Metehan Cebeci, AS22 of Hydra Cultivation Network 

worked to develop a process to produce and distribute 15 tank systems and viable Hydra colonies to microbiology enthusiasts [influencers] for evaluation and network seeding. The hope for the Make It Happen Challenge was to make great advances in the project to move it closer to something marketable rather quickly. As in all progress the team encountered a specific problem but they are moving through to reach their aHa! moment. Just being a part of this challenge showed their project is worth pursuing and can make a difference. Since being accepted, the team has been able to create relationships with people across the country with similar interests and now have the resources needed to bring the project to life.  Both Metehan and Sophia found the outcomes of the MakerGym and VDC different, but being a part of both of them is “incredibly helpful for anybody that has an idea that they’d like to share with the world”. 


Brooks Twilley, Operations Manager at the UD MakerGym was pleased to support the Make It Happen challenge. “Seeing the first cohort of this challenge succeed was both exciting and inspiring.  Exciting to have students returning to the MakerGym [under Covid-19 protocols] and inspiring as this cohort represents a spectrum of students and ideas. The provided training and materials support the MakerGym offers has transcended their concepts into tangible, market or field ready results.”

The UD MakerGym and Horn Entrepreneurship will continue to co-partner in offering the design challenge each spring and fall semester. Applications can be submitted for the fall semester anytime before September 17, 2021 Questions and proposals can be addressed to makergym@udel.edu.

You can expect to work with the MakerGym’s state of the art equipment for design conception, training and the fabrication of your idea into physical items. Prior making experience is never required. This challenge is open to any UD students, teams or clubs — undergrad and grad.


The Make It Happen Challenge offers 5+ award packages with a total value of over $25,000. Each award package includes:

  • A monetary grant covering supplies and materials (up to $3,000).
  • Up to 20 hours of hands-on training and design consultation.

Proposals will be evaluated for their cost-effectiveness, innovativeness and overall impact potential. Applicants with the most promising proposals will be invited to pitch their idea in front of an audience and external evaluation award panel on Sept 24, 2021.


About the MakerGym

The MakerGym is an interdisciplinary design and fabrication studio, focused on student empowerment and collaboration. This creative space offers 3D Printing, Laser Cutting, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Router and Mill, Hand Tools, Work Benches, Sewing Machines, Water Jet and Wood Shop which complement and provide depth to existing making capabilities on campus in order to support education, research, and personal growth. All students have access to our resources including the necessary training and design consultation to help them turn their ideas into action. This is everyone’s sandbox.


About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

Topics: competition, students, technology, innovation