Good will missions usually take a pilot, a co-pilot and an assistant to toss pamphlets out of the plane about an impending drop of food, medicine and supplies. But thanks to the Tampa-based OpenWERX, the process might become cheaper and easier.
It's latest challenge, AirSpew, has attracted 30 teams creating prototypes that spew information. They're vying for a $10,000 grand prize.
“We’re just trying to think outside the box, what else would make it easier for war fighters to communicate to a crowd,” explains Jeff Young, one of OpenWERX’s creators.
The challenge is the latest in a series by OpenWERX, which was formed nearly a year ago to help the public help the military and others. “If purely based on participation, this will be our biggest one,” he says.
The contest is called AirSpew because teams are making prototype devices that literally spew out literature or a verbal message using a speaker or radio. Teams also are working on mounts to attach the prototypes to the popular Phantom 4 drones.
The devices would reduce flight time and personnel hours. In addition to helping with good will missions, the invention might be used for law enforcement, Young adds.
Prototypes were due August 21; judging and awards will be on September 7. The first place team receives $10,000, while second place winners claim $5,000 and the third prize winners take away $3,000.
OpenWERX initially held month-long competitions, but decided to switch to quarterly contests because the teams asked for more time to work. The change also allows OpenWERX to offer larger cash prizes.
Challenges appeal to what he describes as the “maker community,” folks that like to use their hands to make things on their off hours. They may be engineers by trade, but most teams have people with differing skill sets. Some are students.
“I’ve seen definitively an outstanding turnout from folks like the University of South Florida, their engineering students have definitely been involved," he adds.
Ideas are submitted by war fighters and screened to see which ones are most suited to the program. The topic for the next challenge has not yet been chosen, and will be announced at September’s event.
Interested parties can sign up for alerts here.
OpenWERX is part of the Ybor City-based SOFWERX, named for its connection to Special Operations Forces. SOFWERX is a place the public can go to share ideas for what might become tomorrow’s hot inventions.