Carnegie Mellon University

Build18 light project

January 23, 2018

Creativity, curiosity, and engineering intersect at Build18

Krista Burns

Several years ago, members of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Student Advisory Committee were asked what would improve their experience at Carnegie Mellon University. If they lacked anything, it was the ability to work with teams and ideas of their choosing purely for the joy of tinkering, not for a grade.

Build18’s mission is to provide students with a risk-free environment to pursue personal engineering challenges, where the only limiting factor to creation is their own ingenuity. Originally named after the electrical and computer engineering (ECE) course prefix, Build18 signifies the start of the spring semester and a chance for students to build for fun.

“Build18 is where creativity, curiosity, and engineering intersect,” says Cyrus Tabrizi, a Build18 co-chair. “It’s a chance for every innovator at Carnegie Mellon—every student and faculty member with a passion for invention—to make and break things together in pursuit of new ideas. It is exciting to see what everyone comes up with every year!”

Build18 activities and events are funded each year by alumni and corporate sponsors. The festival typically has well-known technology company sponsors, many of whom attend some or all of the Build Week activities. In addition to supporting the festival, a few sponsoring companies host Innovation Tech Talks exclusively for Carnegie Mellon students. These seminars allow builders the opportunity to learn how their projects may be adapted in the real world.

The intense week of building culminates with Demonstration Day, when teams showcase their projects to the public. Visitors have the chance to interact with projects, ask questions, and enjoy the innovative spirit of the festival. This year, some of the projects that were showcased included a motion controlled drone, virtual quidditch, a wireless phone charger, and a smart mirror.

Immediately following the demonstrations, Build18 concludes with a banquet where builders, sponsors, and faculty members celebrate the achievements from the past week. In an effort to maintain the creative spirit of the event, recent Build18 alumni hold panel discussions focusing on the importance of creativity in the workplace.

Build18 is a natural and exciting outgrowth of Carnegie Mellon’s strengths: problem-solving, collaboration and teamwork, and a roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic. Simply put, Build18 serves as an engineer’s playground for students who love the art of engineering.

Build18 project awards

Staff/Faculty's Choice: Hagrid’s Wild Ride 
1st Penguin: AR Yu-Gi-Oh
Lab Rat: 100-Proof
Media Magician: A Doll’s Glove
Officer's Choice: RealFlight
Outstanding Project: Discrete Tic-Tac-Toe
Sponsor's Choice: Page Turning Scanner 
Builder’s Choice: Hagrid’s Wild Ride 
Hudson River Trading (HRT): Pretti Spinni Boi ShineMaster
Pure Storage: MechanicalDog and SleepyCity
Intel: Tiny Table
Rockwell Automation: Draw Booth