RCBI recognizes Design Challenge winners for creativity, innovation


The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) awarded more than $5,000 in cash and other prizes to makers of all ages Nov. 4 during the 9th annual West Virginia Makes Festival on Marshall’s Huntington campus.

The yearly RCBI festival honors creativity and ingenuity in all forms and features a Design Challenge that rewards novel ideas and unique creations, said Deacon Stone, director of RCBI’s Center for Innovation. Prizes include cash, technical assistance from RCBI to move makers’ ideas from concept to creation, and access to RCBI’s community makerspace, better known as the Maker Vault.

The 2022 Design Challenge winners are:

Adult Category:

  • First Place – The Instrument Lab’s Gary Gini of Spencer for his array of inventions and innovations to repair musical instruments
  • Second Place – Baylee Grueser, a Marshall University student from Racine, Ohio, for her series of acrylic paintings of endangered animals
  • Third Place – Tom Stewart of Charleston for SpectraSwitch, a newly patented fiber optic switching system

Youth Category:

  • First Place (tie) – Brothers Nate and Samuel Bowen of Huntington for Nate’s paleo mechatronics invention and Sam’s forged creations from discarded steel
  • Second Place – Jaelie Shank, Nora Clark and Nadia Hambuchen, students at Barboursville Middle School, for Sharpen-ring, jewelry that doubles as a pencil sharpener
  • Third Place – Paxton Hafertepen and Lucas Ward, students at Barboursville Middle School, for River Cleanup System, a waterproof conveyor that filters water and keeps trash out of streams

“Our judges had a difficult time selecting just three winners in each category because of the caliber of creativity on display,” Stone said. “We at RCBI want to thank each of the makers who joined our yearly celebration and remind people wherever you are that RCBI offers the tools and expertise to help bring your ideas to life.”

  • The 2022 festival was made possible through the generous support of sponsors that include Putnam County Bank; Edward Tucker Architects; Johnstone & Gabbart, PLLC; and the Schmidt Family Restaurant Group.

For more information, contact Stone at dstone@rcbi.org or 304.781.1659.


Photo: Nate Bowen of Huntington demonstrates his paleo-mechatronic dinosaur during the Nov. 4 West Virginia Makes Festival at Marshall University. Nate tied for first place in the Design Challenge Youth Division with his brother Samuel Bowen, who won for the metal creations he forged from discarded steel.

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