Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) selects 31 teams for international design competition.
Student teams compete to present innovative approaches to address global problems in ways that transform the economy.
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA- Wege Prize has announced a new, diverse roster of student competitors from around the world for the 2022 edition of the global student competition. Hailing from 70 leading institutions of higher education everywhere from Costa Rica to India to the competition’s home state of Michigan, the competing students stand to emerge as pioneers of real-world approaches combatting “wicked problems” facing the world today.
With an initial field of 31 competing student teams, Wege Prize 2022 welcomes 155 participants that represent institutions from 29 countries and 97 unique academic disciplines, making it one of the most geographically, culturally, and disciplinarily diverse rosters.
Now in its ninth year, Wege Prize — organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) — continues its innovative legacy by challenging students in higher education to build diverse, five-person transdisciplinary teams to develop actionable solutions (products, services, or business models) to systemic issues affecting people and the environment. Ultimately, their innovations will align with the core principles of the circular economy: eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate our natural systems.
“We are delighted to welcome these passionate thinkers, makers, and disruptors to Wege Prize and look forward to seeing them grow their inventive ideas into tangible solutions that can help accelerate our transition to a circular economy,” says Gayle DeBruyn, a KCAD professor of Collaborative Design and Wege Prize organizer. “With climate change and so many other pressing global issues coming to a head, the world needs people who can work across boundaries to solve problems now more than ever before.”
About Wege Prize
During Wege Prize’s six-month, multiphase process, the student teams refine their proposed solutions through newly strengthened feedback loops via direct interaction with a multidisciplinary panel of expert judges. As the challenge progresses, the field will be narrowed down to five finalist teams who will have the opportunity to present and defend their fully developed solutions and compete for a share of $65,000 USD in total cash prizes, an amount more than doubled from last year’s competition.
Among the broad scope of issues addressed by Wege Prize 2022’s student teams from Ghana, Canada, India, Rwanda, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries across the globe, are:
- Utilizing indigenous beneficial microbes, 3D print technology and the Internet of Things to build smart waste bins that facilitate reuse of food waste.
- Creating better collaboration between the wind turbine industry, Marine fisherman, regional locals, and legislators to improve and support the development of clean energy offshore aquaculture sites.
- Decarbonizing buildings by using mass timber or engineered wood as a building material substitute to repurpose waste materials, support modular housing, and incentivize planting forestry.
- Developing long-term solutions to freshwater availability by working to regenerate natural systems and recoup industry-caused damages to our climate and ecosystems.
A Legacy of Success
Many Wege Prize competitors have built their ideas into successful ventures. Among the program’s notable achievers is 2021’s Chilensis team, which has been recognized for its sound isolators made from discarded palm leaves to ease invasive indoor noise pollution in Chile. As well, 2020 Wege Prize winner Hya Bioplastics created a process for blending dried water hyacinth fibers and boiled cassava starch to produce a biodegradable raw material used to make disposable food packaging. The venture’s cofounders have been accepted into a prestigious incubator and have advanced their business. And team Rutopia’s 2019 concepts for eco-sensitive tourism garnered the attention of top editors at Forbes, among others.
“By working across disciplines and getting direct input from industry experts, Wege Prize teams gain a wider perspective on systemic problems, the conditions that influence them, and how to address them,” says KCAD’s DeBruyn. “This fertile collaborative environment enables new possibilities for addressing longstanding issues.”
Beyond monetary awards, Wege Prize, advances intellectual and professional growth by encouraging problem-solving, critical-thinking, and communication skills. This, in turn, benefits students, contributes to their academic, personal, professional experiences and growth, and encourages whole-systems thinking to address shared challenges within their communities or regions.
Wege Prize was established in 2013 to solve complex, layered problems and to encourage students in higher education to take a diverse, collaborative approach in developing new, tangible solutions to produce and consume essential goods in sustainable ways that are applied and used after the competition’s conclusion. Based on its success, Wege Prize was awarded major grant funding earlier this year to extend the annual competition for an assured five years, thanks to the continuing financial support of The Wege Foundation.
See details about Wege Prize 2022 at wegeprize.org.