Making the world a better place, Hardware & Arts style

The Hardware & Arts makeathons have always been open to all sorts of ideas, as long as they connect hardware, design and software. Yet, throughout the ten events in the series we’ve seen that the ideas participants set out to work on, reflect the current challenges in the society. This time we had several teams inventing solutions to help turn the environmental crisis around, paying attention to mental and physical health and creating artistic solutions to make the living environment in urbanistic areas more natural.

When we first started with the Garage48 Hardware & Arts series back in 2014 together with University of Tartu and Estonian Academy of Arts, we had a dream of physical prototypes created in 48 hours. Seven years later we’re so glad to celebrate the impact of that dream  with the constantly growing community of participants and partners around this event series and with a special Garage48 “makeathon” events track - the physical prototyping event series we’re making in the fields of space technology, wood, defence and empowering women in Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine.

Making the world a better place has happened over the years in ways, that has developed into a kind of a “special sauce” of the Hardware & Arts series - it consists of often really crazy and even weird ideas at first sight, some sort of vending or food cooking machine, crazy latvians, Priit Salumaa & Indrek Rebane, surprising technical excellence in making the prototypes happen, final demos where lights need to go off and bad humor that’s so bad it’s good. And we love it! It seems that the community of participants and partners coming back to the events over and over again does too.

Our hardware engineering head mentor Indrek Rebane and software engineering mentor Toomas Välja discussing the Lightnest prototype, a robot following models on the stage for lighting, an idea by Pallas University of Applied Sciences students.

Having co-organized and mentored most of the Hardware & Arts makeathons, Garage48 co-founder Priit Salumaa sees that the winners tend to be the more practical-aimed solutions. “The ideas are shaped by topics relevant in the society - this year the going green challenge reflected in concerns over ocean oil pollution and single-use plastic.”

This year’s overall winner Refill is a vending machine for re-using homecare chemicals’ containers. It fights the single-use plastic by making it possible to refill your shampoo or dish washing container. The team lead Henri Liiva was ideating and analyzing the idea already before Garage48: “The positive feedback on the need of this solution gave the confirmation to start building it. Gathering a great team who made powerful efforts, made it possible to build the prototype with only a weekend. Garage48 is an excellent place for validating your idea and I’m really glad to move forward with our partners in developing the prototype further and making Refill available for use.”  

Tunnel Vision prototype of interactive light installation in urbanistic areas to make people feel comfy and relaxed.

The long experience in bringing together the communities of hardware & software engineering, design and the arts enables us to experience and test out additional directions. With the initiative of our co-organising partner, University of Tartu, we took a step towards the world of soft and biorobotics this year. It differs from building robots in the classical sense as the inspiration comes from nature and bodies that move naturally. Muscle-resembling robots that contract and release with electrical impulses or machines that grow like plants are a few examples. That’s how Garage48 Arts & Robots 2020 was born.

“We had several strong teams working with the opportunities soft and biorobotics offers. Their approaches were all very different, yet similarly creative. The biomimetic tail that Babyvanker team built showed vividly, how simply built and effective a biorobot can be. For many participants this was the very first contact with soft robotics. We believe that the positive experience from this makeathon and the guidance of Italian Institute of Technology mentors we had the pleasure to host in Tartu, will bring more and new solutions with bio and soft robotics at next events,” says Indrek Must, Associate Professor of Soft robotics at University of Tartu.

Soft and biorobotics mentors' team at the Garage48 Arts & Robots 2020. Indrek Must from University of Tartu, Isabello Fiorello and Vincenzo Montagna from the Italian Institute of Technology. 

The Garage48 Arts & Robots came to life by working together with our legendary organizing partner University of Tartu and supporting co-organizing partners Pallas University of Applied Sciences, Estonian Academy of Arts and Tartu Centre for Creative Industries. This can only happen with the financing from the European Regional Development Fund, University of Tartu and City of Tartu. Mentoring, tools & equipment and prizes from sTARTUp Day, TechChill, Hedgehog, SPARK Makerlab, Fractory, Büroomaailm, Burn, Estonian Fashion Festival, Farnell Electronics and BuildIt Accelerator are an important contribution - thank you so much!

We really do love this community of contributors making the events happen over and over again. And only thanks to the so many great partners we can have so many winners and special prizes.

The WINNER & Favourite of the Audience - Refill

Prizes: sTARTUp Day 2021 tickets, 100kg of steel from Fractory, Hedgehog extreme hike

Refilling vending machines for household cleaning and personal care products.

Team: Henri - Director, Gutnar - Soft Engineering, Grete - Soft Engineering, Zinovi - Soft Engineering, Reiko - Hard Engineering, Kiuru - Designer.

1st RUNNER-UP, Best Soft Robotics prize & Best Fun team - Babyvanker

Prizes: University of Tartu goodie bags, Hedgehog extreme hike, BURN prize bags

A robot that rocks your baby to sleep and that has a soft robotic tail on it.

Team: Kaily Murdoja - Medical Expert, Sven-Erik Mändmaa - Hardware, Software, Denys Kovalenko - Software.

2nd RUNNER-UP & BuildIt special prize - Alcojon

Prizes: TechChill 2020 tickets, straight pass to BuildIt acceleration.

Smart breatlyzer that tracks alcohol level and suggests how to improve your consumption
habits through engaging holograms.
Team: Jana Naumenkova - Visionary/ CEO, Tiit Rätsep - Hardware Engineer, Richard Meitern - Health Data Analyst, Gaurav Garg - Full Stack Software Developer, Annika Jaakson - Full Stack Software Developer, Dmitri Keler - Dev-ops Engineer, Ilnur Hairullin - UI/UX Designer, Heiko Paju - 3D Artist, Nika Smirnova - Marketing Specialist, Kalle Viiding - Business, Development / Rovico, Martin Berggren - Sales Guru, George Groshkov - Business Development.

Estonian Academy of Arts Best Design award - Roll With It

Prize: Open Academy gift card

A board game to raise awareness about mental health.

Team:  Lasma - Creative/Arts, Rhea - Marketer, Siim - Creative/Arts, Martin - Developer, Enlik - Software Engineer, Aigi - UI/UX design, Elina - High School Student, Karina - Product Designer

Pallas University of Applied Sciences special prize -

Prize: sketch course at Pallas

Automatic alcoholic drink maker.

Team: Edgars Liepa - team lead/management/software, Kaspars Kozlovskis - android app, Māris Liepiņš - API, database, software, Raigo Tselištšev - 3D case design, case assembly, Janno Joosep, Mathias Malmer - 3D case design, case assembly, Martin Ernits - Assembly, Engineer, Kaarel Rhede - Lead engineer, mechanical design, Lauri Raudla - Assembly, Engineer.

Tartu Centre for Creative Industries special prize - SŠŠUUUUŠSHH

Prize: 1 year of incubation

A panel that enables to change rooms acoustics by a flip of a switch.

Team: Risto Reinumägi - Mechanics Engineer, Mati Simm - Mechanics Engineer, Timmu Tollimägi - Product Designer, Liisu Miller - Electronics Engineer, Kadi Pajupuu - Arts expert, Peeter Virk - HIgh school student (software developer).

Substance Studies special prize - Sponge Blob

Prize: Tartu city wine

Our aim is to solve the problem of oil spill cleanup by finding a way to do it much faster, cheaper and environmentally friendly. The method is simple: 1. Put sponges in oiled water 2. Collect them 3. Squeezee 4. Reuse We propose to use sugar-templated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) sponges which main characteristic is selective absorption of oil from water. And the problem of squeezing and collecting will be solved by creating a robot that will be remotely controlled.

Team: Yauheni Sarokin - team leader, chemical material design solutions, Mubashar Shahzad - mobile app and remote control developer, Vadim Becquer - chemical design and electronics, Martins Porozovs - sponge fabrication and mechanics, Agniia Meshalkina - graphic designer, Kaspar Haavajõe - microcontroller programming and mobile app development , Aleksandra Shabanova - product development and environmental impact analysis.

Farnell special prize - Babyvanker, Does it Make you Happy?, Lightnest

Prize: goodie bags

Does it Make You Happy?

Nowadays, employees check-in at work with RFID cards, which will give the employer the overview when and where the employees are at work. We are building a solution that will use face recognition to identify and detect employees emotions during the workday, so employer would have better overview of employees satisfaction levels.

Team: Tarmo Annus - team lead, Liina Veski - marketing, Oleg Kalinkin - designer, Kristjan Pihus - engineer, Reijo Sepp - web developer, Vlad Bondarenko - web developer.


An interactive light projecting smart robot for podium shows which can track people and which makes presenting fashion creations more original.

Team: Bibiana Aarma - marketer, Maria Kilk - creative, Agne Liis Jõgi - creative, Marta Katmann - ui/ux designer, Anna Elisabeth Viise - creative, Kristjan Laugesaar - engineer, Dmytro Fedorenko - engineer, Alar Okas - engineer, Davit Rizhinashvili - engineer, Viacheslav Kiselev - engineer.

Estonian Fashion Festival special prize - Tunnel Vision

Prize: tickets

We want to create natural and soft light in urbanistic areas which will interact with people, to make them feel more comfy and relaxed.

Team: Ihaan Toomik (Product Design, Teamlead), Liina Dovgan (Creative/Artist), Bruce Wang (Design/Artist), Alisa Butenko (Design/Engineer), Magnus Kaldjärv (Hardware engineer/Electronics), Lauri Teder (DEV), Sander Reinus (DEV), Ingrid Laurikainen (DEV).

The 3 teams that rocked the weekend and built their ideas into reality

Frogalarm - A natural sound alarm to wake up to. A mechanical hand plays the wooden frog instrument.

Team: Edgars Grava - Mechanical engineer, Emils Jansons - Electronics engineer, Ekaterina Krivich - Electronics engineer, Juli Mukhadze - Electronics engineer, Bruno Quast - Creative, Mattias Aksli - Software engineer, Märt Luigujõe - Software engineer, Tanel Marran - Software engineer, Gregor Eesmaa - Software engineer.

Mobo - Soft robotics solution as a replacement arm muscle.

Team: Margus - marketing, sales, visionary, mechanic, Georg - material science, UX, Tiina - UX, disain, sales, Henri - electrical, mechanical, hardware engineer.

Nerve AI - We turn your mouth into a remote controller.

Team: Yehia Soliman El-shãkhs (Electronic Hardware Engineer), Ivor Lõõbas (Artistic Software Engineer), Indrek Kornel (Artistic), Vitalii Lakusta (Software Engineer).

Rest of the ideas pitched on Friday evening

Waste Wizard 0.2 - AI based trash sorting machine, contactless user recognition, recycling score, anti-tar mode, analyze mode.

RoPotty - teaching children to use the potty, a robot potty-training pot. Rewarded by the flushing activity.

ScratchPatch - a scratch patch that covers the itchy part and then passes the scratch on with a different sensation that wouldn’t break the skin.

Swiss knife for school - containing pencils, compasses, etc. for school children.

A feed-back system in hierarchical working environments that would eliminate the need for managers.

Google lenses instead of google glasses.

Headphones cables that retract into the holding case.

A tail as a third hand.

Find, like, love, tag, share and enjoy

All the photos of the weekend
Photos and descriptions of the 13 teams
by Siim Tiirik

Watch again
Final demos and award ceremony

About the author

kadri tiisvelt

Kadri is the COO of Garage48 with years of experience as a hackathon organizer and community builder. She loves to create and bring together supportive environments for starting entrepreneurs who wish to make their ideas into valuable services and products. 🌸

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