By Jessica Beswick
Collegiate Staff Writer
The dimly lit room buzzes with the noise of people talking excitedly. Upbeat drum music playing softly in the background as people mingle.
The room is packed with around 150 people all facing a stage.
The stage presents only three things, a projection screen displaying a red and white 5X5 logo, a podium, and a panel of judges. Overhead is a ceiling painted black with lights that look like stars.
Five minutes before the event is scheduled to begin, the volume of the audience lowers in anticipation. The first speaker of the night steps on stage to start the evening.
The last Tuesday of every month, movers and shakers from Grand Rapids get together to participate in 5X5 Night. The concept behind the idea is five presenters, five minutes, five slides, five judges, and five thousand dollars.
“The format is really simple,” said Bill Robinson, a curator of the event from Pomegranate Studios.
Each presenter has five minutes to sell their idea to the panel of judges with five PowerPoint slides.
The goal is to “express the passion of the ideas,” Robinson said.
The audience is asked to participate in the event through social media. The projection screen on the stage displays a Wi-Fi password for audience members to use and also gives the link: #5X5Night for users to post questions directly onto the 5X5 Night Twitter page. The ideas presented at the latest 5X5 Night included an art program designed to “showcase the other side of Detroit”, an idea to project virtual store fronts on empty store windows around the world, an improved cup for marathon races called “The Fit Cup”, a signature Grand Rapids sandwich, and an improved weather application for smart phones known as “Weather Collage”.
After each presenter gave their idea, audience members posted questions at rapid-fire speed onto the Twitter projection screen. Some of the most popular tweets mentioned the audience members’ favorite ideas and ranged from serious questions to jokes and humor.
“What’s the #perfect weather for a #Grandwich?,” and “What’s the perfect weather for a #Grandwich – can we serve it in a #fitcup and livestream it to Japan?,” said anonymous Tweeters.
The night came to a conclusion as the judges asked their final questions to each of the presenters as they were all standing side by side lined up on the stage.
Most of the questions were serious and focused on details about the ideas to how the presenter plans on financing the project.
The last question of the night came from Rick DeVos the main curator of the event. His question was targeted towards the presenter with the idea for Grand Rapids to have its own sandwich.
“Can it be called the GrandWich?,” said DeVos.
In the end, judges voted unanimously to award the entire $5,000 to A.J. Paschka and his weather collage idea.
The weather collage, according to Paschka, eventually be able to create a “collage” of what to wear, do, eat, and even what music to listen to, just based on the weather in a specific area.
Go to weathercollage.com now, enter your city and state, and you can get a piece of art that is created based on temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure in the air.
Winners of any 5×5 money are required to update the judges regularly about the progress of their various projects so that judges and donors know where their money is going.
The next 5×5 Night event will be held on April 26, 2011, at the Grand Rapids Ballet with the announcement to take place at Founder’s Brewery.