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Indiana FFA teams challenged to fast-paced innovation competition in Fishers

FFA students prepare plans
Tom Gray with Maker48
Students map out their designs
Make48 is a 48 hour challenge
Posted at 7:32 AM, May 17, 2024

FISHERS — This month of May, a fast-paced innovation competition came to Fishers to challenge students to create a project and pitch it to a panel of judges.

The Make48 national competition challenges teams to put their problem solving skills to the test.

The teams from the Future Farmers of America descended on the Fisher Maker Playground for this 48-hour challenge.

"I'm so excited," said Connersville High School junior and FFA member, Emma Ruf. "I've never done anything like this, like create a product before."

WRTV caught up with teams after a few hours of planning for their product that had to fit the theme of the competition, Agriculture Education.

"Most people have an idea stuck in their head," said Maker48 Co-Founder and CEO Tom Gray. "But until you can prototype something, you can't communicate it to a manufacturer, or a business partner or an investor, whatever that might be."

Tom Gray with Maker48
Tom Gray says if you can't build a prototype of your idea, it is very hard to communicate your plans with manufacturers, investors and business partners.

Maker48 challenges students to think like creators and come up with a unique idea for a product, build a physical prototype, a sales sheet and a one minute marketing video.

"We started the competition to bring all of that into 48 hours, and have fun doing it," said Gray. "And in 48 hours, it's really unbelievable what can be done."

The student teams are led by an adviser or teacher, they also are provided with technicians and experts both locally and nationally to bring their products to life.

These competitions happen on the national level and Make 48 has been putting these events on since 2015, and Gray says the community of Fishers is lucky to have such a great community, maker-space.

Students here are able to work with a number of tools provided in the space like CAD design software, digital fabrication, metal and woodworking tools. They also meet with patent attorneys to make sure their idea isn't infringing on something that is already out in the market.

Students map out their designs
Before finalizing design plans, student teams with with patent attorneys.

For the Connersville team, they decided to create a puzzle of an ecosystem that lights up when complete.

"We encountered problem after problem figuring out how its going to work, but we think we finally have something that we think is going to work," said Christina, a Connersville HS senior. "We are almost through all the logistics."

She says this challenge has been a crash course in learning about electricity.

"I have learned more about electric in the past three hours than I have in the past 16 years," said Christina.

And that's part of the goal of the Make48 innovation competition.

Make48 is a 48 hour challenge
The Make48 challenge helps student teams learn real-life problem-solving skills in a short amount of time.

"We work a lot with the teachers and they often say these kids learn more in 48 hours than in a whole year of schooling," said Gray.

For Connersville teacher and FFA adviser Gabe Nobbe, it is also about problem solving and life skills.

"Well one of the things I think it will do is help them problem solve and think about how all the products are produced around them and how they've kind of gone through this similar process," said Nobbe.

Nobbe adds that while FFA is centered around agriculture, it prepares students for a number of careers, and this challenge is just one example.

He worked to bring a diverse group of students to the competition with a variety of strengths to contribute to the team, adding that not all agriculture industry jobs are out on the farm and that 45% of careers will be touched by Ag in some form or fashion..

By the end of the competition, one FFA team was declared the winner by the panel of judges.

The team from Hamilton Southeastern claimed that victory. They were awarded $2,000 and will represent Indiana in a national competition with Make48.

To learn more about these Make48 innovation challenges, visit

And to learn more about Future Farmers of America and how your child can get involved, visit