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Wege Prize Finalist Weekend

What do you get when you mix one wicked problem, five finalist teams, and $30,000 in cash prizes? An amazing Wege Prize Finalist Weekend! This year, I had the opportunity to be apart of this inspiring weekend by watching the finalist teams present and receive awards.

Being unfamiliar with Wege Prize, I had to start at the beginning. I learned that Wege Prize is a competition that tests design thinking within collaborative groups of undergraduate college students from all over the world by attempting to solve a ‘wicked problem’. This year, teams came up with solutions to wicked problems such as hospital waste management, slum sanitation, and powering a rural manufacturing facility all through the constraint of creating a circular economy. It seems impossible to tackle a problem this large solo, but that’s why this competition is based on collaborative teamwork, a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds working towards a common goal. This year, teams were comprised of students who study design, engineering, science, business, and many other fields of study. It seemed the more diverse the team was, the farther the group progressed in the competition. This just goes to show how effective working collaboratively can be.

The finalist teams’ projects were phenomenal. They were thought provoking and creative. From backpacks to waste management systems, all of the solutions presented had the potential of creating a circular economy. Just listening to the students present their ideas sparked a desire within me to want to solve wicked problems.

However, even more than watching students present and compete, I enjoyed getting to know all of the students participating. Students came from all over the world; from states in the U.S. like Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas, to international countries such as the Netherlands and Kenya. In addition, finalist teams included students from China, Costa Rica, and Nigeria. Getting fresh and new perspectives from peer undergraduate students was insightful and inspiring. When all of the participants were together, it was evident how much higher functioning a group can be when there is diversity in race, gender, age, experience, and field of study.

Being able to attend this year’s Wege Prize finalist competition has provoked me to look deeper into participating in the 2017 Wege Prize competition, form a team, and compete for the grand prize. Looking past the cash prize, I am most excited to get to know other creative individuals with a great deal of motivation. Expanding my network, not only with professional adults, but also peer students from around the world, is a huge advantage of participating in this competition. I cannot wait to see where this year’s Wege Prize will lead me.

If you are just as interested in learning more about Wege Prize as I was, visit Wege Prize to get more information about the foundation, the challenge, team forming, and the prizes.

Transdisciplinary KCAD Team Wins Trendway Student Design Competition

Posted June 12, 2015 in Student

Give a group of creative young minds a design challenge and you’re likely to get some very interesting results. That’s especially true in Collaborative Design classes at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD), where students from different majors work across disciplinary boundaries to solve problems by converging their individual perspectives and skill sets.

Recently, students in professor Ken Krayer’s User Centered Design class participated in a design competition held by Trendway Corporation that challenged student teams to explore the creative possibilities inherent in the company’s Feek® coated foam products. Ever since its 2013 North America introduction, Feek® has captured the imagination of designers all over the US and Canada. The material offers a fast, simple process to bring creative ideas to life – a blank canvas on which to create memorable statements for every kind of interior. By nature, the coated foam process enables shapes and configurations that traditional materials can’t match.

Feek foam seatingA physical prototype of a butterfly-shaped seating element made from Feek® coated foam, designed by the winning KCAD team (image courtesy of Trendway Corporation)

“Feek® coated foam offers unique design flexibility for a manufactured product,” said Krayer. “There’s no tooling, no molds required – concepts go directly from the computer to manufacturing. Students have the opportunity to see their concept through final production in an amazingly brief timeframe.”

The transdisciplinary makeup of Krayer’s class, composed of both Collaborative Design majors and students from other programs, allowed teams to think outside the box in order to make the most of the innovative material. The winning team, consisting of Industrial Design students Jordan Eastwood and Linghom Wang, Digital Media student Amanda Lumley, and Interior Design student Hannah Snyder, designed a series of seating elements for use in a pediatric care waiting room.

Winning team(left to right) Digital Media student Amanda Lumley, Industrial Design student Jordan Eastwood, Interior Design student Hannah Snyder, professor Ken Krayer, Industrial Design student Linghom Wang, and Trendway President and CEO Bill Bundy

“By converging our separate perspectives, we were able to understand the end user and the environment we were designing for,” said Eastwood. “We focused on pediatric care because we felt the current scenario was weak in providing an environment the user appreciated and could look forward to entering.”

Inspired by nature, the team arranged hexagonal elements in a honeycomb pattern that offers versatile seating options. They also designed separate seating elements shaped like butterflies, dragonflies, and bees and used a bright color palette.

design rendering by KCAD studnets fpr Trendway competitionThis design redering from the winning team shows a possible configuration of different Feek® coated foam seating elements in a pediatric waiting room setting

“We looked to nature for our design inspiration for two major reasons: One, nature has design elements that are aesthetic or pleasing to the eye, such as with color and geometry; secondly, children are drawn to objects from nature that are large-scale, colorful, and playful like in playgrounds or mall play areas,” said Eastwood.

By touring Trendway’s facilities and meeting with some of its employees and executives, the students got to know the Feek®coated foam inside and out. Along the way, they learned that the material is safe, easy to clean, and has no sharp edges or rigid framing, making it perfect for a pediatric setting.

“That emphasis on research and observation was huge,” said Snyder. “You have to make sure you really get the most out of the people you talk to, and focus on the user in everything you do, because that’s who’s really going to benefit.”

Eastwood added, “We were allowed to play with our color palette and think outside the box to come up with designs that pushed the envelope on complexity and construction.  We had to think within the restraints of how the foam is cut and coated during every stage of development. This didn’t make things difficult; it made us contemplate how something complex in nature could be translated into the design language of Feek®.”

Feek coated foam seating element designed by KCAD stduentsTrendway made physical prototypes of the bee-shaped seating elements designed by the winning team that will be displayed in the company’s Neocon showroom(image courtesy of Trendway Corporation)

A panel of judges, including representatives of KCAD, Trendway, and G&T Foam, evaluated entries on originality, creativity, form, and function. “It is always exciting to partner with young, creative minds,” says Tracy Reed, Trendway Director of Marketing. “Seeing the students’ thoughtful and innovative ideas for Feek coated foam inspired all of us!”

The winning design will soon be prominently featured in Trendway’s Chicago Showroom during NeoCon week, June 15 through 17, after which it will be donated to KCAD. Each member of the winning team also received a piece of Feek®QBee furniture.

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