We love wood and anything that is made out of it, especially if factory made. So we could not resist going to check out what was going on at the first “Wood Hackathon” ever.

On a sunny Friday morning, we hit the road to Väimela Technology House in Võru county, South Estonia, where the Wood Hackathon was about to take place.

The event, organized by Garage48 and hosted by TSENTER (Centre of Competence for Wood Processing), opened the Wood & Furniture project in the Interreg Estonia-Latvia Programme.

Garage48 is famous for organizing this kind of events, although they are usually oriented to software or electronics. The initiative of extending this fast prototyping model to wood is somehow a novelty and everyone is really curious to see the outcome.

katus.eu wood hackathon priit saalumaa

Priit Salumaa of Garage48 presenting the WOOD Hackathon.

If you are not familiar with the mechanics of a Hackathon, here is how it works.

Participants gather in a designated place with ideas for projects on a given topic. This usually happens on a Friday afternoon. Everyone with an idea is welcome to present it on stage in a 90 seconds pitch. Participants listen to the ideas and then each one of them decides on which idea he/she would like to work.

The ideas with less than 4 Team members are discarded and only those gathering more consensus will be implemented.

In the following 48 hours (until Sunday afternoon), everyone works to transform those ideas into a real product. Sleeping is optional.

The Teams work together for 48 hours to reach the common goal of having a prototype to show at the closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon. 
Needless to say, this kind of format creates a strong bond among Team members and sparks creativity to its fullest.

In the usual work setting, people are motivated by external circumstances to do their work. Here, everyone has an interior drive, a passion for making something happen.

It is a kind of magic.

The 100+ participants were mainly young Latvians and Estonians included students from Art Academy of Latvia, Estonian Academy of Arts and Ergli Vocational School, working practitioners from wood and furniture companies in Estonia and Latvia and woodworking hobbyists.

They were divided into different categories:

  • designers;
  • engineers;
  • carpenters/joiners;
  • wood industry practitioners;
  • marketers.

...all of them sharing the same passion for woodworking.

Of the 36 ideas pitched on Friday, 18 were turned into prototypes and a few of them into fully finished and working products!

The prototypes were evaluated by a jury composed of experts in the wood sector: 

  • Martin Melioranski (Architect, Director of 3D Lab) from Estonian Academy of Arts;
  • Renee Puusepp (Architect & designer, Senior Researcher) from Estonian Academy of Arts
  • PhD Aija Freimane (Associate professor, Postdoctoral Researcher in Design) from Art Academy of Latvia;
  • Nauris Grandans (Laboratory Engineer)  from Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Institute in Latvia; 
  • Kristaps Ziverts (Testing Laboratory Quality Manager & Furniture Testing Engineer) from Forest and Wood Products Research and Development Institute in Latvia;
  • Jörgen Dobris, Wood Processing Development Manager at TSENTER.

The jurors also mentored the Teams during the entire weekend.

At the end of the intense 48 hours working weekend, the prototypes and the winners were revealed.

katus.eu wood hackathon renee puusepp

Mentor/juror Renee Puusepp awarding a prize.

The Winner of the first Garage48 Wood Hackathon was Bike Box.

Bike Box is a wooden/textile folding bike box that satisfies daily urban needs.

Team: Tiina Pärtel, Ilze Janpavle, Viesturs Laurs, Sander Tint.

Prizes: Additional development weekend at Väimela Tech House & Local tasty prizes.

Tiina Pärtel shared with us that the idea for the Bike Box came to her on the bus while traveling to the Wood Hackathon.
She is an experienced product designer and she really wanted to pitch her own idea at this event. She found valuable help in her Team and they said they are going to develop the Bike Box further.
They already have ideas on how to improve it!

katus.eu wood hackathon awards winner bike box

Bike Box Team receiving the award for 1st place.

katus.eu wood hackathon bikebox

Bike Box - opened.

katus.eu wood hackathon bikebox closed

Bike Box - closed.  

The second place went to Viisk foldable plywood boat... a fishing boat made entirely of wood that can be transported inside the car and unfolded in minutes!

Team: Tiit Kolk, Martin Polikarpus, Rahul Puniani, Kaarel Saar, Matthew Mitt, Remo Allikas, Elza Dobičina, Kaisa Kalmet.

Prizes: Additional development weekend at Väimela Tech House & Local tasty prizes. 

katus.eu wood hackathon awards 2nd place viisk

Viisk Team receiving the award for 2nd place.

katus.eu wood hackathon viisk

Tiit Kolk B- inventor of Viisk - showcasing the prototype.

The third place went to Tim-Bin... an eco-friendly trash bin for outdoors. 

Team: Helmi Marie Langsepp, Kristel Alliksaar, Egert Uibo, Oskars Kreišmanis, Kaspars Lagsdinž.

Prizes: Additional development weekend at Väimela Tech House, Estonian Academy of Arts 3D chocolates.

katus.eu wood hackathon awards 3rd place tim bin

Tim-Bin Team receiving the award for 3rd place. 

katus.eu wood hackathon tim bin


Tim-Bin also won a Special Award for Design.
Special prizes were also awarded for four additional categories:

  • Best Business Potential
  • Engineering Innovation
  • Best Presentation
  • Most Fun Team

The Best Business Potential award went to Playcart.

Playcard is a wooden version of the shopping cart with integrated children’s car... with a drastically improved user experience. Happy child = happy parent!

Team: Lauri Semevsky, Epp Marta Tarvis, Christopher Nõmmann, Kevin Laus.

Prize: Latitude59 tickets.

katus.eu wood hackathon awards best business potential playcart garage48

Playcart - Photo: Garage48.

Engineering Innovation award went to Dynamic Structures

A universal joint for wooden structure elements, that can connect 3 or 4 any kind of structural elements together at one point. It makes it easier to build wooden structures in any shapes.

Team: Rudis Rubenis, Zane Kalnina, Ritvars Krastins, Gyuri Jakabfi, Paul Salumaa, Antra Viluma, Aleksis Pavalkovics.

Prize: Tasty local prizes.

katus.eu wood hackathon awards best engineering innovation dynamic structures garage48

Dynamic Structures - Photo: Garage48.

katus.eu wood hackathon awards engineering innovation dynamic structures

Dynamic Structures Team receiving the award for engineering innovation.

Best Presentation award went to Hund Dog Station

Smart furniture for dogs, that houses the dog’s food, drinks, toys, accessories. It also serves as an ergonomic dinner table that is adjustable and comfy for dogs of different sizes. We help dog owners to get organized.

Team: Mait Kaup, Veiko Ilves, Lauri Visnapuu, Keidy Säinas, Karin Oras.

Prize: Tasty local prizes & Battery energy drink.

katus.eu wood hackathon hund

Hund Dog Station.

The Most Fun Team award went to Electric Trike

This idea rose from the ashes of a failure as the original idea presented on Friday turned out to be impossible to make over a weekend.

The Team scattered and most of the members left, leaving two brave men to work on a new, eclectic and fun project.

Prize: Battery energy drink

katus.eu wood hackathon electric trike

Electric Trike.

Here are the other ideas that were turned into prototypes in the 48 house of the Garage48 WOOD Hackathon:

  1. UVote - Voting booth... let’s make voting booths modern, easy to use and set up and multifunctional.
  2. Tree-house KIT - a tree-house-building construction game for children to build an actual tree-house outdoors.
  3. Sun Lounger - there aren’t too many nice sunbathing chairs and this product will change that - it is a wooden sunbathing lounger that has a really nice design.
  4. CleatWall - smart furniture made from French cleat wall concept that brings an element from woodworking shops to living rooms.
  5. Hobbit - Dynamic bed for kids that is affordable, green, easy to use, modular and compact. It is multifunctional as it can be used for sleeping by a small baby and for a playing house by older children.
  6. Multiplayer Marble Game - redesign of an existing marble and plywood ball game.
  7. Origami Furniture - let’s imagine a piece of plywood, that we can fold into a chair. Plan for 48 hours is to build the concept and if it works, make it open source.
  8. Black Hand Office - a special laptop and equipment case for designers that unfolds quickly and has spaces for designer tools to carry around and open easily.
  9. Mirror - wooden make-up mirror for girls with bright lights and pockets for makeup tools.
  10. Nordpedics - handcrafted working table with adjustable height and a visible moving mechanism, e.g. captain wheel that rolls around when the table height is being adjusted.
  11. Log Seat - log benches made of the short pieces of logs that remain from log processing.

Despite not receiving any prize, these Teams are all winners - said Priit Salumaa at the closing ceremony.
They gave proof of being able to turn an idea into reality in just 48 hours and they clearly demonstrated to have what it takes to be committed to a goal.

katus.eu wood hackathon threehouse

Three-house Kit - small-scale prototype.

katus.eu wood hackathon crib

Hobbit - Dynamic bed for kids.

At the end of this intense weekend, we wonder if an event like this can be extended to something like prefabricated houses... 

Design technology and structural solution are the bottlenecks of the entire process of getting a house from an idea sketched on paper to a set of packages loaded onto trucks and ready for shipment.

Perhaps putting great Architects, talented Engineers, experienced Manufacturers into a room for 48 hours could generate a handful of exceptional concepts.

Could the Hackathon be the solution (or the push) to finally disrupt the Prefab Homes industry?
We invite Garage48 to think about this…