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Finalists Announced in KCAD’s Wege Prize 2019 Design Competition

Posted April 4, 2019 in StudentPublic

Wege Prize—an annual competition that ignites game-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college students around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries and redesign the way economies work—has announced the five finalist teams that will compete for a share of more than $30,000 USD in total cash prizes in the final phase of the 2019 competition.

Now in its sixth year, Wege Prize, developed by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of The Wege Foundation, beganas a regional competition before rapidly expanding to a national, then international level, with the field of teams growing significantly in geographical diversity each year. In 2017, the competition was opened up to graduate students, having previously only been open to undergraduate students.

Trophies with the letter W inscribed on them

“KCAD is proud to continue working alongside The Wege Foundation to make Wege Prize available to students worldwide,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “As a college of art and design, KCAD understands well both the innovative power of creative problem solving and the necessity of empowering individuals through creative education. This competition reflects our commitment to providing educational experiences that are immersive and inclusive, and to transforming ideas into real-world actions that will lead us into a sustainable future.”

Beginning in August of 2018, Wege Prize 2019 challenged participating teams to develop a product, service, business/nonprofit model, or other solution that could help spur a transition from our current linear economic model—in which we take, make, and dispose—to a circular economy, an economic model that’s restorative and regenerative by design.

Teams of five were required to represent different institutions of higher education and different fields of study, giving them an intentionally broad perspective with which to address the kinds of layered and systemic “wicked” problems perpetuated by a linear economic model. Nine teams entered Wege Prize 2019, representing 14 countries, 21 academic institutions, and 40 unique academic disciplines while including both undergraduate and graduate students.

“Creativity and collaboration are key to addressing the many complex challenges we face today,” says Gayle DeBruyn, Wege Prize coordinator and associate professor at KCAD, which organizes and hosts the competition with the support of The Wege Foundation. “Wege Prize strives to empower students from every corner of our planet through immersive experiences with this approach to problem solving, so that they may become the leaders and change agents of tomorrow.”

Guided by direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges, the teams refined their solutions over the course of three distinct phases, with the scope and complexity of the challenge growing at each phase.

“Wege Prize teams have multiple touch points with experts from a variety of industries and knowledge fields, and that’s really what sets this competition apart,” says DeBruyn. “We provide a platform where, more than just competing, teams are given multiple opportunities to experiment, learn, grow, and ultimately develop a feasible action plan for making their ideas a reality.”

The 2019 finalists are:

Institutions represented: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States), University of Toronto (Canada)

What they’re working on: Considered Furniture is proposing a service model furniture company that shifts end-of-life responsibility of bulk furniture waste from the user to the manufacturer, responding to a need for effective waste return channels, capturing waste value, and directing that value towards new revenue streams.

Considered Furnitured solution excerpt


Institutions represented: Accra Institute of Technology (Ghana), Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (Ghana), Palm Institute of Strategic Leadership (Ghana)

What they’re working on: Nkunim is addressing Ghana's widespread plastic waste problem by designing a sanitation-focused mobile application that integrates with a circular economy-inspired plastic waste management system. The goal of the integrated approach is to communicate vital information to users while motivating them to participate in a system that can collect, separate, treat, and recycle plastic waste into new products. 

Nkunim solution excerpt


Institutions represented: EARTH University (Costa Rica), Michigan State University (United States), Northland College (United States), United States International University Africa (Kenya), Yonsei University (South Korea)

What they’re working on: Norena Group is proposing to upcycle food waste into multiple useful products for consumers, including animal feed, plant fertilizers, clothing and other goods. Specifically, the team is looking to manufacture products out of a leather-like fabric that can be made from pineapple leaves.

Norena Group solution excerpt

Institutions represented: African Leadership University (Rwanda), Ashesi University (Ghana), EARTH University (Costa Rica), University of Wyoming (United States), Wellesley College (United States)

What they’re working on: Redent is proposing a system in which cocoa pod husks, a byproduct of cocoa bean production, can be upcycled into organic fertilizers, bio-soaps, and animal feed. The system, designed to be waste-free and both economically and environmentally sustainable, also aims to inspire cocoa farmers toward sustainable farm practices while giving them access to additional income streams.

Redent solution excerpt

Institutions represented: Makerere University: School of Art and Technology, School of Built Environment, and School of Engineering (Uganda)

What they’re working on: Wet Technik is proposing to address Uganda's water shortage and wastewater treatment issues by designing a system that can upcycle grey water using a mix of constructed wetlands and filtration bio carriers made from repurposed plastic bottle caps. The system aims to reduce the costs of water usage while minimizing environmental pollution from hazardous wastewater.

Wet Technik solution excerpt


These five teams will present and defend their solutions in front of competition judges and live/online audiences on May 31, 2019 at the 2019 Wege Prize Awards, which will also be streamed live online at wegeprize.org. The top award of $15,000 will be given to the winning team, with awards of $10,000 and $5,000 going to the second-place and third-place teams, respectively.

2019 Wege Prize Awards
Date: Friday, May 31, 2019
Time: 10:00am-2:30pm EDT
Location: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Woodbridge N Ferris building (17 Pearl St NW, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.)

Event Schedule
9:30 am                                 doors open
10:00am – 12:30pm              finalist presentations
12:30pm – 2:00pm                judges’ deliberation/lunch break
2:00pm – 2:30pm                  presentation of awards
2:30pm – 3:30pm                  media/interviews

Attending in person? Reserve your FREE seat now via Eventbrite