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Finalists Announced in KCAD’s Wege Prize 2020 Design Competition

Posted April 6, 2020 in StudentPublic

If the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that humans are at our best when we work acrossthe boundaries that divide us. And more importantly, we need to normalize this kind of collaboration if we’re to rise to meet the immense challenges before us.

This May, college/university students from around the world will illustrate the power of collaborative, transdisciplinary problem solving to a global online audience in the culmination of Wege Prize 2020. At the 2020 Wege Prize Awards, the five finalist teams in this international design competition—representing 7 countries, 13 academic institutions, and 20 unique academic disciplines—will present their efforts to solve complex problems and rethink the way we derive value from our economic systems.

Developed by KCAD with the support of The Wege Foundation, Wege Prize is open to undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students worldwide. Teams are challenged to develop products, services, business models, and other solutions that address systematic issues while also helping power 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.

Guided by direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges, participating teams refine their solutions over the course of three distinct phases, with the scope and complexity of the challenge growing at each phase. Ultimately, five teams earn the opportunity to compete for $30,000 USD in total cash prizes, awarded annually to those whose ideas spark the brightest hope for real world implementation and success.

“Creativity and collaboration are absolutely essential to both addressing the many complex challenges we face today and rising to meet those that await us in the future,” says KCAD Interim President Tara McCrackin. “That’s why what happens in Wege Prize each year is so important. We need to empower young people from every corner of our planet through these kinds of immersive, real-world experiences, so that they can become the leaders and change agents we so desperately need.”  

The Wege Prize 2020 finalists are:


Institutions represented: Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (United States), Grand Valley State University (United States), Oakland University (United States)

Disciplines represented: Collaborative Design, English Literature, Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Graphic Design, Nursing

What they’re proposing:
What if we could streamline and reduce pre-consumer food waste at a university level by offering to-go meal packages and on-campus composting? Further Food is developing a regenerative system that transforms unused food from campus dining services into packaged meals made available to students during the final hours of cafeteria operations, while leftover waste is diverted to an on-campus composting facility. The system keeps nutrients cycling through campus while also creating economic value, social capital, and educational/research opportunities.


Institutions represented: Georgia Institute of Technology (United States), Makerere University (Uganda)

Disciplines represented: Commerce, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Civil Engineering, Industrial Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering

What they’re proposing:
What if one of the world’s most invasive plants could help spell the end for single-use plastic cutlery? Hya Bioplastics is developing a process that blends dried water hyacinth fibers and boiled cassava starch into a biodegradable raw material for the production of disposable plates, cups, and silverware. At the same time, the process helps mitigate the threat that the spread of water hyacinths poses to already-scarce freshwater sources around the world.


Institutions represented: Ashesi University (Ghana), EARTH University (Costa Rica), Trinity College (United States)

Disciplines represented: Agricultural Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Business Administration, Mechanical Engineering

What they’re working on:
What if organic waste from urban restaurants and residences could give rural farmers access to affordable and environmentally friendly fertilizer? Pellet is developing a system to do just that by tackling persistent waste streams while creating economic opportunity, nurturing soil health, and aiming to jumpstart a budding industry in Rwanda in the process.


Institutions represented: Kenyatta University (Kenya), Wageningen University (Netherlands), Uganda Martyrs University (Uganda), University of Cape Coast (Ghana)

Disciplines represented: Agriculture Extension, Agro-Ecology, Finance, Land Use and Environmental Science, Plant Sciences

What they’re working on:
What if the cause of some of Ghana’s most pressing environmental and human health problems could become their solution instead? Team Biochar is developing a system to convert the country’s abundance of pineapple waste—which is currently either burned, discarded on the ground/in bodies of water, or buried in the soil—into biochar and compost that can be used to improve soil fertility, increase crop yield, and enhance food security while eliminating environmental pollution and reducing the spread of disease.


Institutions represented: University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine/Faculty of Science/School of Engineering (Canada)

Disciplines represented: Biomedical Science, Chemical Engineering, Computer Science, Plant Biology, Statistics

What they’re working on:
What if the threat climate change poses to Canada’s booming canola oil industry could be stopped by the very seeds the oil is made from? yOIL is developing a biological system for addressing the problems Canada’s unpredictable climate and short growing season pose to the industry, namely excess chlorophyll from seeds diluting the quality of the oil while raising production costs, and a fungus that leaches nutrients from canola crops in cold and humid conditions. The system removes chlorophyll from the oil and repurposes it into an antifungal treatment for the fungus, reducing costs and waste while increasing quality.


These five teams will present and defend their solutions live in front of competition judges and online audiences on May 29, 2020 at the 2020 Wege Prize Awards. Due to COVID-19, the event will be hosted entirely online, with all finalist teams participating remotely via video conferencing. 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.

The event will be streamed live online at wegeprize.org.

2020 Wege Prize Awards

Date: Friday, May 29, 2020
Time: 10:00am EDT
Streaming live at wegeprize.org

Event Schedule
10:00am – 10:10am              introduction
10:10am – 12:30pm              finalist presentations
12:30pm – 2:00pm                judges’ deliberation
2:00pm – 2:30pm                 presentation of awards


For more information, visit wegeprize.org.