Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD)

Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD)

Grand Rapids, MI


Global Collegiate Design Competition Wege Prize Expands Its Outreach to High School Students

By kaylamorgan
Aug 9, '21 12:06 PM EST
Image courtesy of 2021 Wege Prize
Image courtesy of 2021 Wege Prize

Grand Rapids, Mich., August 00, 2021 — Since 2013, the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD)’s international design competition, Wege Prize, has inspired and taught college students to collaboratively design and propose innovative solutions that support a circular economy. For the first time, the competition is expanding outside the university level, launching a summer workshop called the Wege Prize High School | Collaborative Studio.

With a framework similar to that of the globally recognized Wege Prize competition — whose international success has ensured its five-year continuation with a doubled total purse prize of $65,000 USD and expanded pool of judges thanks to the continuing financial support of the Wege Foundation — the innovative, two-week high school program launched on August 5th and runs through 13th in West Michigan. Participants in the workshop include 15 high school students representing nine regional schools of West Michigan. The program is organized by KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with support from the Wege Foundation.

Researching and learning about ”wicked problems” facing the West Michigan area, the students are working in three teams and advancing their ideas from informal plans into fully-developed solutions that can be prototyped and tested in the real world. Throughout the program, the teams are meeting with more than a dozen experts working on regional challenges including the Grand River restoration, countywide waste management systems, youth hunger, universal access to parks and recreation and more — learning new ways to innovate for a better West Michigan. The guest teachers include Wesley Watson of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum and designer Tom Newhouse, among many others.

According to KCAD’s Gayle DeBruyn, the students are researching the current linear economic system, in which people “take, make, and dispose,” and how it heavily relies on collecting large quantities of resources and energy that are immediately discarded after use. Instead, the program illuminates ideas about the circular economy — defined as a regenerative approach to the consumption of finite resources, eliminating waste and mimicking the operation of living systems by reusing materials of high quality.

“Sharing the framework of KCAD’s international collegiate student design competition, Wege Prize, it is now available to high school students in this two-week, active learning experience with facilitated collaborative groups and highly qualified instructors,” says Gayle DeBruyn, KCAD professor and Wege Prize organizer. “They are devising their own solutions to wicked regional problems through the design process and present their work to community leaders.”

“Along the way, Wege Prize High School | Collaborative Studio participants are building skills, knowledge, experience, and professional connections that will expand their career opportunities and inspire them to become more actively engaged with the world around them,” adds DeBruyn.

About the Wege Prize High School | Collaborative Studio

The workshop takes place August 5th to August 13th and is divided into four distinct phases. In the first phase, participating high school students introduced their teams and communicated their research plans. They also created a project summary that integrates sustainable development goals and addresses how they solve the wicked problem of their choice.

In the second phase, the teams received feedback from competition judges on how to rethink their solutions to be more regenerative and concrete. They communicated their ideas through an informative and visually compelling document that includes, but is not limited to, how their solution aligns with the circular economy, steps they’ve taken to prototype their solution and testing it in a real-world context, and barriers that challenge the success of their plan.

In the third phase, they’re first, applying the judges’ feedback to the revision of their project summary, and second, including details on the resources/materials that were incorporated into their solution and their importance in building a circular economy. They’re also completing the design of a business model that evaluates the economic viability of the solution and whether the project is feasible.

In the final phase, teams will virtually present and defend their solution in front of selected judges and a global online audience at the 2021 Wege Prize High School Collaborative Studio Exhibition on August 13, 2021. Each team will be allotted 10 minutes to present its slideshows, followed by a brief Q+A session with the judges. A registration link for the free 90-minute virtual event can be found here, Wege Prize High School Competition.

“These four phases are designed to ensure that students will gain valuable experience with experts, develop professional connections that will expand their career opportunities, and essentially, inspire them to become more actively engaged with the world around them,” says DeBruyn.

For more information or interviews with the Wege Prize High School Collaborative Studio organizers, please contact C.C. Sullivan.

About Wege Prize: Wege Prize, a West Michigan-born concept developed by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University’s (KCAD’s) Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of The Wege Foundation, is an annual competition that ignites games-changing solutions for the future by inspiring college students around the world to collaborate across institutional, disciplinary, and cultural boundaries and redesign the way economies work. To learn more, go to

About KCAD: Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) is committed to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation, and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in design, the visual arts, and art history; provides innovative, collaborative education that fosters intellectual growth and individual creativity; and promotes the ethical and civic responsibilities of artists and designers, locally and globally. For more information, please visit

About the Wege Foundation: Planting seeds that develop leaders in economicology, health, education, and arts, and enhance the lives of people in West Michigan and around the world. For more information, please visit