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NCSU Libraries: 'Making' an Impact on Campus Sustainability

June 22, 2016

Editor's Note: This is the fourth blog in a series during this National Week of Making to highlight Making in museums and libraries.

By Lauren Di Monte

NCSU Libraries

Environmental sustainability is one of the greatest challenges we face. To ensure a healthy and prosperous future we have an urgent need to develop innovative and responsible ways to use our energy and natural resources. To learn what some of those creative solutions might look like, the North Carolina State University Libraries partnered with NC State’s the Sustainability Office and University Housing to develop a unique student sustainability challenge that we called a “make-a-thon.”

(Pictured: NCSU students participate in sustainability make-a-thon. All photos courtesy of NCSU Libraries.)

A make-a-thon is a collaborative making and problem solving event. It is a variation on a hackathon that focuses on makerspace tools and making methods, rather than on coding and software development.

Working over three days, at the James. B. Hunt, Jr Library, 42 students in 11 teams researched, designed and prototyped solutions to improve sustainability in one of three areas: energy, water, or waste. Teams used real campus data provided by the Sustainability Office, and tools and expertise offered by the NCSU Libraries Makerspace program.


(Pictured: Participants in NCSU's make-a-thon on campus sustainability.)

On the final day of the event, 10 community and industry sustainability experts evaluated the projects and awarded prizes to the top teams in each category, as well as a grand prize to the overall winner.

The grand prize was awarded to KnowURshower, a physical computing system with a companion app that visualizes how much water you use each time you shower.

Another make-a-thon idea received project development funds from the campus’ Sustainability Office. Trasher is a sensor system that monitors the capacity of waste and recycling bins and automatically alerts trucks when they need to be emptied.

Over one weekend NC State students came up with smart and creative solutions to real-world sustainability issues. They demonstrated what's possible when student ingenuity meets library makerspace. Their passion and drive show us that we can solve big issues, one prototype at a time.

The NCSU Libraries are collaborating with a team from across campus to repeat and grow Make-A-Thon into a bigger, more impactful event for 2017.


Lauren Di Monte is an academic librarian and Libraries Fellow at North Carolina State University. At the NCSU Libraries she works in Administration, with a focus on recruiting and visitor relations, and on makerspace initiatives. She develops programs that facilitate critical and creative engagements with existing and emerging technologies, and collaborates with colleagues to re-imagine library services and to create more vibrant and inclusive library spaces.