Higher Education, Nonprofits, and Sustainability

Wege Prize finalists tackle 'wicked problem'

March 26, 2015
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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

The final presentations and awards ceremony for an intercollegiate competition pitting students’ minds against a “wicked problem” will take place this weekend — with $30,000 at stake.

Three teams of Wege Prize 2015 finalists, representing four academic institutions, will compete for cash prizes at the event this Saturday in Grand Rapids at UICA.

The Wege Prize was established in 2014 through the collaborative effort of KCAD and The Wege Foundation to allow teams of students to work together from different disciplines, while using design-thinking principles.

Students had to create a solution that could function in or develop a shift toward a “regenerative economic model” in solving the posed problem: "How can we create a circular economy?"

Wege Prize event

As the final stage of the competition, the three teams will present their solutions to the problem in front of a panel of five judges, who are practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability.

The judges will evaluate the presentations based on a number of factors: process, understanding of a circular economy, depth of research, effective communication and feasibility.

The panel is comprised of five internationally recognized judges: Colin Webster, education programme manager at Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the U.K.; Gretchen Hooker, biomimicry specialist at the Kalamazoo-based Biomimicry Institute; Nathan Shedroff, program chair of M.B.A. programs at California College of the Arts; Ellen Satterlee, executive director of The Wege Foundation; and Michael Werner, green chemistry and restricted substances manager at Apple.

The teams will then be awarded $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for third place, based on their solutions.

Doors open for the Wege Prize event at 9:30 a.m., and the program officially begins at 10 a.m. with finalist presentations and ends with awards presentations at 2 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public, and registration isn't required.

For those who cannot physically attend, the competition will be made available as a live-stream video online.

The finalists

Each of the final three Wege Prize teams is comprised of five undergraduates, representing a variety of academic study and educational institutions. The teams are known as The Originals, Pixelation and Western Sustainers.

Gayle Debruyn, coordinator for Wege Prize, said it will be exciting to see the improvement done through the finalists' fine tuning after receiving feedback from the judges.

“All of the solutions showed forward thinking and a real willingness to explore new ideas through collaboration and the inclusion of multiple perspectives,” Debruyn said. “The three finalists exemplified a strong understanding of the circular economic model, and their solution could work within it.”

The Originals, who created an organization striving to develop long, healthy and fun lifestyles through society-wide mechanisms, consists of students from KCAD, Pennsylvania State University and Savannah College of Art and Design.

Pixelation is the team behind No Waste Delivery, or NOW, a food-delivery service to transform food consumption and purchasing methods of the urban office worker. The team consists of students from KCAD and Savannah College of Art and Design.

The final team, Western Sustainers, is made up of students from Western Michigan University and has designed The Local Loop Farm. It is an agricultural system designed to exist symbiotically with the surrounding community.

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