Kogod School of Business

Info For

Our Approach to Learning


Work and Play Combine at the 2024 Sustainability Invent-o-Thon

AU students developed games to teach middle schoolers about sustainability and competed for cash prizes at the Kogod School of Business’s Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship event.



Sustainability is a critical topic to understand well for an environmentally conscious future, but that doesn’t mean that learning about it can’t be fun! Last month, students from across the American University community gathered at the Kogod School of Business’s Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship for the final round of the 2024 Sustainability Invent-o-Thon. Student teams developed prototypes for games and toys designed to teach middle school students about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, then tested those prototypes for a panel of judges and the target audience. Faculty members were invited to bring their children to the event for a day of play and sustainability education.

For the students at the event, the final round was the culmination of weeks of relentless effort and dedication. They had first participated in a preliminary round in early March, where they presented their initial ideas and received feedback to further develop their prototypes. From there, they continued to build out their games with unwavering support from the university’s Design and Build Lab, a digital fabrication space available to all students. Through the lab, students could design their games in a way that ensured their ideas came to life through their product.

By the final round on March 23, the teams had full-fledged sustainability games ready to test—and who better to test them than the students the games were designed for? As the children of AU community members enjoyed the wide range of games, the judges took note of each game’s impact and the audience’s excitement. The joy and enthusiasm on the children's faces were a testament to the success of the games in making sustainability education fun and engaging.

Beyond providing younger students with an entertaining Saturday, the teams also put their games in front of a judge team consisting of AU staff and faculty and experts from the wider community. The winning team would take home ten thousand dollars, with the two runners-up earning cash prizes as well. With so many innovative and thoughtful projects in the running, it was bound to be a close competition.

The winning team consisted of business and entertainment student Sarine Christianian, international relations student Maya Lobel, and economics student Anna Kalashnikov-Titov, who impressed judges and players with their game EdVenture Farm. In second place was the game Wasteland Wonderland, developed by Kogod MBA students Anju Varghese and Aatif Junaid, physics student Gustave Kerndt, political science student Yolanda Guerrero, and public health student Genevieve Loveland. The Moonlight Minds team came in third, with work from business administration student Luc Schifino, environmental studies student Emma Geer, global environmental policy student Alyssa Parker, and computer science and gaming student Sai Tarun Aili.

As the wide range of degree programs represented in the winning teams demonstrates that the Invent-o-Thon is a platform that attracts students from across the campus community and with all sorts of career goals, perspectives, and expertise. Not only does the event encourage innovation and a focus on sustainability, but it also fosters a sense of inclusivity and diversity, giving these students a chance to work with colleagues whom they might not have courses with and developing new friendships along the way. In the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship, assistant director Danielle Vogel’s experience, students have jumped at the opportunity and often come back to participate in the event again, a testament to the event's impact on their academic and personal growth.

The Invent-o-Thon provides a terrific opportunity for AU students to make new friends and deepen their understanding of sustainability issues as they work with their hands to bring a product idea to life.”

Danielle Vogel purple

Danielle Vogel

Assistant Director, Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship

“It was great to see so many students who had participated in last year’s competition return to engage again this year. It’s clear that they had a lot of fun and felt inspired to channel their climate anxiety into climate action!” said Vogel.

The success of this year’s Invent-o-Thon indicates how AU students use both their education and their drive for a better world to enhance their time at the university. By developing their games and sharing them with the middle school attendees, it’s very possible that they introduced younger people to topics that matter to them in a fun and engaging way. Through hands-on learning opportunities such as those the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship provides year-round, these students have an outlet to innovate, collaborate, and make a difference both in their communities and in their world.

Learn more about the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship here.