In March student teams from across the world reached the final phase of the 2021 Wege Prize Student Competition. The international competition invites young designers, scientists, engineers and innovators to address and help provide solutions to the world's pressing issues and "wicked problems."
The competition shares, "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."
The annual design challenge, organized by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) announced this year's Wege Prize winners.
View the winning design teams below.
1st PLACE WINNER ($15,000) – AgriTrade Hub
Institutions represented: Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, University of Energy and Natural Resources, University of Ghana, and EARTH University in Costa Rica
Disciplines represented: Biological science, agricultural science, natural resource management, geological engineering, and political science
Solution: Addressing the wicked problem of increased logging in Ghana creating wood waste and sawdust – about 97,000 metric tons annually – and the mismanagement of waste disposal, the team’s solution proposes transforming wood waste into nutrient-based substrates for mushroom production, leading to mushroom compost for use in fertilizing and growing forest and ornamental trees, thereby eliminating all forms of wood waste and mitigating environmental impacts.
2nd PLACE WINNER ($10,000) – Sutote
Institutions represented: EARTH University in Costa Rica, Nkhoma University in Malawi, Hubert Kairuki
Memorial University, and the Water Institute in Tanzania
Disciplines represented: Medicine, business management, agricultural science, natural resource management, water resources and irrigation engineering
Solution: Synthetic pesticides are a wicked problem the world over, extremely harmful to health and the environment. In Tanzania, pesticide residues have been detected in the samples of irrigation water, and this team is devising a closed-circle production system for tomatoes using organic pesticides from the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia Diversifolia).
3rd PLACE WINNER ($5,000) – The Chilensis
Institutions represented: Pontifical Catholic University of Chile and University of Santiago de Chile
Disciplines represented: Integral design, physical engineering, chemical engineering, business administration
Solution: With overcrowding already a wicked problem in Santiago, Chile, the pandemic in 2020 has only aggravated the impact. The Chilensis is developing sound isolators using discarded palm leaves waste to improve the quality of life by providing privacy. Old palm leaves are treated as waste, but they have significant sound isolation properties and help address the challenge while creating a circular economic opportunity.
HONORABLE MENTION - FINALISTS
Team Musana, comprising students all from Uganda, addressed head-on the issue of using wood to fuel stoves for cooking, which contributes to more than 80% of biomass fuel use and widespread deforestation in Uganda. This team helps solve this wicked problem by created a stove using solar power and water to fuel cooking, eliminating the need for wood fuel and helping reduce deforestation in Uganda. In addition, their solution includes a model to buy or repair used stoves to reuse raw materials.
Banga Na, with students from Ghana and Tanzania, tackles the high-waste problem of cashew apples causing bugs, environmental, and economic problems for local farmers in Ghana. For this wicked problem, the team’s solution of adding value to cashew apples by converting the fruit to wine, juice, and organic fertilizer, generating income and employment from waste and improving food security and economic growth in the country.
In addition to celebrating this year's winners the Wege Prize announced it will be extended for five more years. "Thanks to the continuing financial support of The Wege Foundation, Wege Prize 2022 through 2026 will again be open to any undergraduate or graduate student in the world and will be focused on developing a circular economy. New in 2022, Wege Prize has been extended for five more years of competitions, with a new growth plan to double the prize purse to total $65,000 USD."
The Wege Prize
Wege Prize was established in 2013 to solve the most complex, layered problems. The competition requires teams of individuals capable of working across the barriers that too often divide people — to drive systems- level change. The KCAD prize offers a powerful and accessible platform for any college or university student in the world to develop tangible solutions that often find real-world acceptance and application after the competition concludes.
To learn more about the Wege Prize click here.
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