College names Wege Prize winners


A Wege Prize 2017 trophy. Courtesy KCAD

A local college has named the winning teams of an international design competition.

Kendall College of Art and Design’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design announced the winners of the 2017 Wege Prize on May 19.

The fourth-annual Wege Prize is an international competition focused on solving some of the world’s most difficult problems, re-thinking and re-designing the way economies work. Participating teams worked to develop zero-waste businesses, products or services around the globe.

Previous competitions were open exclusively to undergraduate students, but the 2017 Wege Prize was open to undergraduate and graduate students worldwide.

Five finalist teams advanced to the last phase of the competition on April 19, including participants from Canada, China, Italy, India, Nicaragua and the U.S.

A judging panel of practitioners and advocates of design thinking and sustainability evaluated the teams’ solutions based on depth of research, technological and financial feasibility, alignment with circular economic principles and potential for impact.

“All of the finalist teams in Wege Prize 2017 have displayed an extraordinary amount of courage, dedication and compassion for the future of our world, and for that, we thank them,” KCAD President Leslie Bellavance said.

“I challenge all of our finalists to use their experiences in this competition to continue moving forward, to expand on their existing ideas and to remain fearless in building the future.”

Winning teams

First place, $15,000:

Team Kulisha: Maya Faulstich-Hon, Brown University; Eric Katz, University of Michigan Ross School of Business; Jon Luthy, University of Michigan College of Engineering; Katie Matton, University of Michigan College of Engineering; Viraj Sikand, Brown University

Solution: converting food manufacturing waste to protein for animal feed and fertilizer using black soldier flies.

Second place, $10,000:

Team Somos: Enrique Andrade, Taylor Axdorff and Ian Culver, KCAD; José Sanabria Vindell and Alex Santiago Ramírez Cárdenas, Autonomous University of Nicaragua

Solution: halting environmental impact and increasing profits for small coffee farmers in Nicaragua.

Third place, $5,000:

Team Cheruvu: Nikhitha Rao Cheeti, University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy (graduate); Aniket Deshmukh, University of Michigan College of Engineering (graduate); Shamitha Keerthi, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (graduate); Samhita Shiledar, University of Michigan College of Engineering/School of Natural Resources and Environment (graduate); Kavya Vayyasi, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment (graduate)

Solution: using crop science and data to help farmers in India increase yield and mitigate risk.

The other two finalist teams — EcoReturns and Remade in China — were each honored with a $1,000 Finalist Award for earning a place in the final stage of the competition.


Michael Werner, environmental program manager, Google, Mountain View, California

Colin Webster, education program manager, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Endinburgh, U.K.

Gretchen Hooker, biomimicry specialist, Biomimicry Institute, Kalamazoo

Nathan Shedroff, associate professor, California College of the Arts, San Francisco

Christopher Carter, independent educator, animator and sculptor, Miami

Wege Prize

The Wege Prize was developed by KCAD’s Wege Center for Sustainable Design with the support of the Wege Foundation.

The challenge to teams of college students is to design a product, service or business model that can function within and help create a paradigm shift towards a circular economic model. A circular economic model aims to restore products, components and materials to their highest utility and value.

Wege Foundation

The Wege Foundation aims to plant seeds that develop leaders in economicology, health, education and arts and enhance the lives of people in West Michigan and around the world.


Located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, KCAD is dedicated to creating lasting impact in West Michigan and beyond through collaborative partnerships, cultural innovation and an educational model that prepares students for leadership in the visual arts, design, art history and art education.

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