Higher Education, Nonprofits, and Sustainability

Finalists compete for international Wege Prize

May 15, 2017
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Wege Prize finalists tackle 'wicked problem'
The Wege Prize hosts a biomimicry workshop at the BISSELL Treehouse at John Ball Zoo. Photo via fb.com

Local organizers of an international college design competition have selected five teams of finalists.

Kendall College of Art and Design, or KCAD, has selected the 2017 Wege Prize finalists.

The teams will pitch their ideas, which must focus on transdisciplinary ways to re-design an economy, to a panel of five judges who are leaders in design thinking and sustainability.

KCAD will host the event at the college’s Woodbridge N. Ferris building in Grand Rapids, at 17 Pearl St. NW, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on May 19.

“KCAD is proud to work alongside the Wege Foundation to empower students from around the world to be bold and broad in their consideration of the world, their place in it and the challenges we all face together,” KCAD President Leslie Bellavance said.

“(The) Wege Prize is a powerful platform for elevating discourse and inspiring action, and we commend these finalist teams and all of our competitors for their collaborative and creative spirit, their thirst for innovation and their dedication to realizing positive and lasting change.”

The five teams will present their ideas to the judges, who will choose first-, second- and third-place winners.

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- and third-place teams.

2017 Wege Prize finalists

Team Cheruvu is comprised of students from the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and School of Natural Resources and Environment

Cheruvu has developed a solution for a sustainable enterprise that employs crop science, machine learning and crowd analytics to help farmers in developing countries increase crop yields, mitigate risk and improve their economic standing.

Team EcoReturns includes students from Lund University in Sweden, Yale University and the University of British Columbia in Canada

EcoReturns’ solution re-thinks seafood production to address the impact on marine ecosystems, while promoting community involvement and consumer engagement.

Team Kulisha includes students from Brown University and the University of Michigan

Kulisha developed a solution to help food and beverage processing plants convert their organic waste products into an insect-based protein that can be used in animal feeds and as an agricultural fertilizer.

Team Remade in China is comprised of students from Beijing Normal University in China, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Parenthope University of Naples in Italy

Remade in China’s solution focuses on a modeling tool that can help urban environments develop food, energy and water systems that unite policy and technology to meet consumer needs.

Team SOMOS includes students from KCAD and the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua

SOMOS is focusing on helping small coffee farmers operating in Nicaragua’s Miraflor Natural Reserve halt the negative environmental impact of their production process, while taking advantage of the waste byproducts of that process to produce other raw materials to export for profit.


Michael Werner, environmental program manager, Google, Mountain View, California

Colin Webster, education program manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Endinburgh, U.K.

Gretchen Hooker, biomimicry specialist, Biomimicry Institute, Kalamazoo

Nathan Shedroff, associate professor, California College of the Arts, San Francisco

Christopher Carter, independent educator, animator and sculptor, Miami

Wege Prize

The Wege Prize was developed by KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of the Wege Foundation.

The challenge to teams of college students is to design a product, service or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model. A circular economic model aims to restore products, components and materials to their highest utility and value.

Wege Foundation

The Wege Foundation aims to plant seeds that develop leaders in economicology, health, education and arts and enhance the lives of people in West Michigan and around the world.


Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, KCAD is dedicated to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history and art education.

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