KENDALL COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN OF FERRIS STATE UNIVERSITY (KCAD) ANNOUNCES WINNERS OF WEGE PRIZE 2021, AND PLANS FOR GROWTH, BIGGER PRIZE PURSE FOLLOWING AWARD OF 5-YEAR GRANT EXTENSION.
A TEAM OF STUDENTS FROM GHANA AND COSTA RICA WINS FIRST PRIZE AND $15,000 USD WITH TRANSFORMATIVE CONCEPT TURNING WOOD WASTE INTO MUSHROOM PRODUCTION.
Tackling the world’s most pressing, complex “wicked problems” by addressing global issues with design thinking, the winners have been announced for Wege Prize, an acclaimed international student design competition organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD). The winning teams, sharing a $30,000 USD purse and earning broad visibility for their ideas, hail from Chile, Costa Rica, Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania. The students presented their ideas at a live online event as the culmination of a nine-month-long competitive process supported by expert judges.
As reported widely in trade and news media, Wege Prize provides a powerful and accessible platform for any college or university student in the world to develop tangible solutions to serious challenges, benefiting from a collaborative process that transcends disciplinary, cultural, and institutional boundaries. The resulting solutions — including many that go on to join incubators and earn startup funding — address climate and environmental impacts, social and economic disparities, and cycles of waste, hunger and poverty.
This month, KCAD has announced that Wege Prize has been awarded grant funding to extend the annual competition for five more years, with a new growth plan to increase the prize purse by over 100% to $65,000 USD, to double its pool of judges, and to begin exploring future extensions of Wege Prize to serve more students and communities.
“Wege Prize teams are inspired to reframe the way we produce and consume by collaboratively developing products, services, business models, and other solutions that address systematic issues,” says Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD professor and Wege Prize organizer. “The participating teams also help chart paths to transition from our current linear economy — in which we take, make, and dispose — to a circular economy that’s regenerative and restorative by design. We need to champion more of these creative, daring problem- solvers!”
Earning first place in 2021 is the team AgriTrade Hub, which unites a student from Costa Rica’s EARTH University with three universities in Ghana to not only find uses for the problematic wood and sawdust waste created by the Ghanaian logging industry, but also to turn those waste materials into agricultural and economic value. Among the nutrient-giving byproducts of the proposed solution is a mushroom compost ideal for fertilizing newly planted forests and valuable ornamental trees. (More details follow, below.)
“Our solution is geared toward supporting the local economy, and contributing to food security and nutrition through the production of nutrient-rich oyster mushrooms,” says AgriTrade Hub team member Victoria Akwamaa Yeaboah, a student in agricultural science and natural resource management at EARTH University. “With our focus on ensuring that nearly all the resources are used up, we’re contributing to a circular economy that helps redefine the universal issue of wood waste.”
At the 2021 Wege Prize Awards event held online recently, AgriTrade Hub presented as one of five finalists that emerged from an initial field of 35 teams — a record field for Wege Prize — representing 29 countries, 88 academic institutions, and 114 unique academic disciplines. The five finalist teams presented bold ideas that evolved over nine months of intensive research, testing, networking, prototyping, and direct feedback from the competition’s panel of expert judges.
AgriTrade Hub won the $15,000 first place prize. The second- and third-place teams were awarded $10,000 and $5,000 respectively, and the two other finalists earned $1,000 each. (The total cash awards given will more than double in the 2022 iteration, says DeBruyn.)