The Carle Illinois College of Medicine is seeking submissions for the first Illinois Health Make-a-Thon competition. Anyone who lives in Champaign County can submit an idea for improving human health on the Health Maker Lab website. The deadline for idea submissions is March 11.

The competition submission form includes three questions:

— “What is the health-related problem you want to address?”
— “What is your idea for solving this problem?”
— “How will your solution impact the health of individuals, families and/or communities?”

A panel of experts from the university will review submissions and choose the best ideas that can be addressed by the Health Maker Lab, a network of several maker labs and design spaces across campus. Twenty finalists will pitch their ideas to judges who include professors, physicians and local entrepreneurs at the Health Make-a-Thon event, planned for 6 p.m. on April 13 at the Beckman Institute. Ten winners will receive up to $10,000 each in Health Maker Lab resources to create a real prototype of their idea.

“The Health Maker Lab competition is about empowering individuals, families, communities and, ultimately, the world to design and make tomorrow’s health care,” said University of Illinois chemistry professor Martin Burke, the associate dean for research at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “Anyone with an idea for improving human health has a chance to access our maker lab resources where our experts will guide them through conceptualizing, designing, making, failing and trying again. It’s exciting to think about transforming these ideas into reality.”

The Health Maker Lab is designed to democratize health innovation, said Ruby Mendenhall, the assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

“For example, I recently met two young black girls in high school at a conference,” she said. “One of them was conducting research on how to cure sickle cell disease while the other was trying to understand the triggers for seizures in children with epilepsy. These young girls, with approval from their parents, will have the opportunity to submit their ideas to the Health Make-a-Thon competition. We are creating an ecosystem where we can nurture diverse types of genius and even future Nobel Prize winners working to eliminate health disparities.”

Organizers will notify competition finalists by March 29. Official competition rules can be found here.