Higher Education, Small Business & Startups, and Sustainability

Wege Prize names winners

May 28, 2018
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Team Rutopia rep on circular tourism in Mexico Wege Prize 2018
Members of team Rutopia, the winner of the 2018 Wege Prize, present on circular tourism in Mexico. Courtesy Wege Prize

The winners of a locally based global competition have designs on changing the world.

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design has announced the winners of its Wege Prize 2018.

Participating teams — each composed of five students representing different academic institutions and majors of study — were challenged to collaboratively design and propose a sustainable product, service, business, nonprofit organization or other solution to a problem of their choosing.

The teams presented their ideas to judges at the competition May 18.

The first-place team won $15,000 for its Rutopia, an online platform that facilitates the transition to a fair, sustainable and circular tourism system for indigenous communities in Mexico.

The students on the team include Emiliano Iturriaga, Diego Espinoza Siliceo and Sebastián Muñoz Amezcua of Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education School of Engineering, and Irene Heras de Hoyos and Eduardo Maass Rueda of Metropolitan Autonomous University of Mexico City.

“We really appreciated the social and cultural elements being integral to Circular Tourism Mexico’s solution; they weren’t just add-ons,” said judge Nathan Shedroff, an associate professor at California College of the Arts and founder of the school’s MBA in Design Strategy program. “Their co-op model is particularly well-suited to solve the problems they identified, because they’re truly involving locals in co-design and co-building, which honors culture and keeps money local. The judges see this as a solution that can revitalize communities that are struggling, and we really appreciate that.”

The second-place team won $10,000 for Sabon Sake, a proposal to transform sugarcane farming waste disposal from a biohazard into bio-compost fertilizer.

The third-place team won $5,000 for Hand Me Up, an online children’s secondhand clothing subscription service.

Two finalist teams also were recognized with $1,000 awards. One was for a closed-loop aquaculture system wherein freshwater fish are raised for human consumption while the system’s natural byproducts are upcycled to create additional value. The other was a proposal to connect those who need building materials with those who have materials to sell.

The five finalist teams were chosen from an original field of 17 teams representing 63 unique academic disciplines and 36 different academic institutions from 12 countries around the world. Over the course of seven months, teams developed their ideas from a one-page proposal into a design solution informed by their own research, ideation and experimentation, as well as direct feedback from the judges.

“As in previous years, the invigorating ideas, global perspectives and passionate optimism that this year’s teams have brought to Wege Prize have been both remarkable and inspiring,” said KCAD President Leslie Bellavance. “It is my hope that all of our participants will translate their experiences in this competition into forward momentum. I challenge them to build on their existing ideas and to always stay curious about what lies ahead.”

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