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Wege Foundation Grant Propels West Michigan-Based Student Design Competition Toward Broader Global Impact

May 12, 2016

$444,000 grant awarded to Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design to extend Wege Prize competition for four years.

Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design has been awarded a $444,000 grant from the Wege Foundation to continue running the Wege Prize student design competition for the next four years. Open to any undergraduate student in the world, the international competition challenges transdisciplinary teams of five to design a product, service, or business model that can function within and facilitate a paradigm shift toward a circular economy, an economic model in which resources and capital are regenerative.

Through the lens of the circular economy, past Wege Prize participants have developed compelling solutions to formidable social and environmental issues such as the rising costs and environmental impact of mass food production, the harmful buildup of low-density polyurethane plastics in nature, and barriers to accessing renewable energy. Such challenges are known as “wicked” problems due to their systemic complexity and resistance to solution.

Wege Foundation CEO Mark Van Putten says Wege Prize offers a unique opportunity for students to integrate their own knowledge and perspective with that of students working in other fields and institutions to produce a meaningful impact on the world.

“Students are conscious of the environmental and economic crises facing their generation,” Van Putten says. “Wege Prize is an experience that empowers learners to collaborate in the pursuit of sustainable global development.”

Wege Prize began in 2014 as a regional competition but grew quickly, expanding to an international scale for the ongoing 2016 competition, which has drawn participation from students in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Costa Rica in addition to the United States. International students from China, Nigeria, and Kenya who are studying abroad in the U.S. are also participating.

KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design will continue to conduct Wege Prize annually through 2020 with the support of the Wege Foundation. Organizers aim to expand the scope of the competition’s growing impact over the course of the four-year grant, engaging an increasingly diverse group of international participants while continuing to nurture the cogency and viability of teams’ solutions.

The Wege Prize 2016 Awards will take place Saturday, May 14, 2016 from 9:30am - 2:30pm inside KCAD’s Woodbridge N. Ferris Building (17 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503), where the five finalist teams in this year’s competition will present their solutions in full to a judging panel of leading practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability. The competition’s 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, respectively. Summaries of all the teams and their projects can be found here.

Of particular note is Team Spaak+, representing three schools in the Netherlands, who has developed a solution that focuses on creating an on-site waste treatment system for hospitals that minimizes environmental impact while maximizing the ability of the system to recover resources. The solution seeks to use existing systems in a way that does not require extensive modification to existing infrastructure. See an overview of their solution here

The Wege Prize 2016 Awards are free and open to the public. RSVP by visiting wegeprize2016.eventbrite.com. The event will also be streamed live online at wegeprize.org starting at 10 a.m. May 14.

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