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“Makers Madness” Contest Enters Final Round

April 2, 2024

“Makers Madness” Contest Enters Final Round

Voters to Decide “The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois”

SPRINGFIELD – As voting opens in the final round of the 2024 “Makers Madness” contest, four products have emerged as finalists in the bracket-style tournament hosted by the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association that lets voters decide which product is The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.

Presented by Comcast Business, the competition celebrates the incredible work of manufacturers across Illinois, who have long served as the backbone of our state’s economy. Manufacturing is the largest contributor of any industry to the state’s Gross Domestic Product, supporting nearly a third of all jobs in Illinois and contributing more than $580 billion to the state’s economy each year.

Over the past week, voters chose their favorites in four head-to-head matchups between individual products, with almost 70,000 votes cast in this round. From an original field of more than 200 products, nominees for The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois have now been whittled down to the Top 4 which are: Komatsu Mining Truck manufactured by Komatsu in Peoria; Mullen’s Imitation French Dressing produced by Mullen’s in Palestine; the MQ-25 Stingray (Drone Refueler) built by Boeing in Mascoutah and Mod Box by Enviro Buildings made by Craig Industries in Quincy.

“The amazing products included in this year’s competition showcase the incredible ways our state’s manufacturing sector leads the way in creativity and advanced technological innovation,” said Mark Denzler, President and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “These final top four vote getters provide a great field to choose from. We look forward to seeing which product emerges as this year’s winner to earn the 2024 title of The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.”

More details about the products in the “Makers Madness” Top 4 are as follows:

Komatsu Mining Truck

Manufactured by Komatsu, a leading manufacturer of construction, mining, forestry, and industrial heavy equipment in Peoria, the Komatsu mining truck is a rugged, large capacity truck used for construction and mining. With a capacity ranging from 30 to 400 tons, the Komatsu truck is built for meeting productivity targets in mining and construction and it comes equipped with new innovations in suspension, transmission, electric drive technology and autonomous operation. It is engineered for reliability, operator efficiency, high performance, fuel efficiency and has a reduced carbon footprint, meeting U.S. EPA Tier 4 emission standards.

Mullen’s Imitation French Dressing

Made in Palestine, Mullen’s Imitation French Dressing is a delicious food dressing based on a recipe perfected by John D. Mullen, a gourmet chef who served as a cook in Europe during World War I. Upon returning to Illinois, Mullen owned a succession of restaurants before opening his first manufacturing and bottling plant in 1948 following rising demand for his special salad dressing. Mullen’s is currently owned by Penny Shaw and husband David Shaw, a Palestine native whose ancestors were some of the early pioneers that settled Palestine in the early 1800s.

MQ-25 Stingray (Drone Refueler)

Built at the Boeing manufacturing facility in Mascoutah, the MQ-25 Stingray (Drone Refueler) is an unmanned aircraft with aerial refueling capabilities. Developed to enhance the defense and operational capabilities of the U.S. Navy, the Stingray has the capacity to refuel combat planes mid-flight. With intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities that enhance the capability and versatility of US aircraft carriers, the development of the aircraft has laid the foundation for all future carrier-based unmanned systems. A pioneer in the cutting-edge manned-unmanned teaming operational concept, the MQ-25 is the first unmanned aircraft in history to refuel another aircraft.

Mod Box by Enviro Buildings

Manufactured by Craig Industries in Quincy, Mod Box by Enviro Buildings™ are insulated outdoor buildings constructed with high-density foam insulation to provide the best insulation and durability. Sold through the company’s Enviro Buildings brand, Mod Box is a modular product that uses standardized panels to let customers create a building to suit a specific need. Mod Box structures are available in sizes ranging from 8-by-6-feet to 12-by-16-feet. It is typically used for on-site construction offices and guard houses to in-plant server rooms and offices that can be assembled quickly and efficiently. Mod Boxes are strong and durable and can maintain ambient temperatures from -20 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Voting for this round is now open and will take place at through 11:59 p.m. on April 7. Voters may cast one vote per day for any of the four finalists. The contest will culminate with an awards ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on April 10 when The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois will be named.

“Congratulations to the Top 4,” said Sean McCarthy, Comcast’s Regional Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Initiatives. “Comcast Business is proud to support Illinois’ manufacturing industry and the annual Makers Madness competition to determine the Coolest Thing Made in Illinois.  Best of luck to all the finalists and we look forward to celebrating the winner on April 10.”

To ensure the state’s manufacturing sector remains strong, the IMA is advocating for the passage of several measures this legislative session. Priorities include proposals to support students and families entering the workforce through student loan employer tax credits and scholarships, advancing the development of cutting-edge technology by modernizing the state’s Research & Development tax credit, and allowing carbon capture and sequestration to help the state reach its clean energy goals.

Previous contest winners include the Rosenberg Moon Habitat, a 3D printed polymer structure designed to house humans on the moon, manufactured by Ingersoll Machine Tools in Rockford; Rivian’s all-electric R1T truck made in Normal, the first all-electric truck in production featuring four motors, with one powering each wheel; the Self-Regulating Traffic Signal Heater by Termico Technologies in Elk Grove Village, which uses conductive particles to heat traffic signals so they remain free of ice and snow and traffic can safely navigate our roadways; and the 797F Mining Truck manufactured by Caterpillar, Inc. in Decatur, the world’s largest mechanical truck.

Timeline of events:

  • February 14 – March 3: Nominations accepted at
  • March 5 – March 17: Voting on nominations to determine the Top 16
  • March 19 – March 24: First round of voting to determine Top 8
  • March 26 – March 31: Second round of voting to determine Top 4
  • April 2 – April 7: Final round of voting
  • April 10: Winner of The Coolest Thing Made in Illinois announced

About the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association (IMA)

The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is the only statewide association dedicated exclusively to advocating, promoting and strengthening the manufacturing sector in Illinois. The IMA is the oldest and largest state manufacturing trade association in the United States, representing nearly 4,000 companies and facilities. For more information, visit