PHCC urging people to sign up for college's "Big IDEA Challenge"

By Colter Anstaett - Southside Bureau Reporter

MARTINSVILLE (WSLS 10) - The deadline to sign up for Patrick Henry Community College's second "Big IDEA Challenge" is just three weeks away, but unlike the first year, no one is signing up to participate.

The goal of the challenge is to help people create a physical concept design of their idea for a product.

"You could build prototypes, we'll walk through the design process, talk a little bit about marketing, research, prototype testing," PHCC Community Development Coordinator Tiffani Underwood explained.

Those are just some of the opportunities offered to people who participate in the challenge.

You get to work in the college's Fab Lab, which is the biggest in the state.

"We have a laser cutter over here, a 3-D scanner, vinyl cutters. We also have electronics benches so they can work on programming," Underwood said as she walked through the Fab Lab.

The lab also includes multiple 3-D printers and larger, more industrial equipment like a sand blaster and plasma cutter.

Lab Entrepreneur in Residence Eric Hruza worked closely with the participants during the first 30-day challenge and said the challenge was a huge success.

"I couldn't be more excited about what we found in our first session," said Hruza. "You had individuals from every walk of life that had just a brilliant set of ideas."

Martinsville was built on manufacturing and designing products he said. That's the tradition the challenge is hoping to continue and as a result help grow the economy.

"There is that mindset here and I strongly believe that if you have an idea, it doesn't matter if you have ever done manufacturing, if you've ever done anything specifically related to product development. Try it," Hruza emphasized.

Underwood said the holidays and the election may be to blame for the low interest this time, but another information session is planned for 6 p.m. on December 1 to try to get people interested.

The deadline to sign up for the challenge is December 9.

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