IHA Names Winners of GIA Student Design Competition


Industrial design students at Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham have won four of the top six prizes at the International Housewares Association’s 29th annual Global Innovation Awards (gia) Student Design Competition. This year’s winners include products that help reduce food and electronics waste; an overturned self-watering weed cultivator; a portable immersion boiler for tea and other beverages; and a potty that reminds caregivers to “bath up” their children, while making potty time fun.

The competition challenges students to redesign a current household product to meet the needs of the future or to create a concept for a new product. Winning projects are selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles, and quality of input materials.

The winning students and their products will be on display at The Inspired Home Show, IHA’s global home and home goods marketplace, March 5-7 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, the first in-person gathering of the premier marketplace in industry since 2019. See the winners and their products on the IAM student design web page.

First place winner

Madeline Gerst, a WWU junior from Seattle, Washington, won first place and $3,500 for her WAVE UV-C bread box. She is accompanied by two second and three third place winners who will share $7,000 in prize money. The top six will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Chicago for The Inspired Home Show. The three winning schools will receive grants totaling $3,000.

Gerst said, “I am thrilled and honored to have this opportunity to share my work. Winning this competition opens doors to exciting new career opportunities for my future. I hope to make valuable connections with other students, designers, businesses and innovation leaders at the show in March. I would like to thank my teachers, peers and friends whose support throughout the design process contributed to the success of this project.

“Madeline’s winning entry is thoughtful, purposeful, user-centered design at its finest,” said contest judge Chris Cunningham, IDSA, Cunningham Design, Chicago. “The WAVE UV-C bread box reinvigorates a stagnant market/category to meet the needs of today’s users with a smart application of new technology to refresh a historically low-tech solution. Madeleine also makes excellent use of prototyping and design methodologies to determine the technology component and the final solution. Her product concept is incredibly trendy now with the rise of home bread baking and I can see a manufacturer partnering with her and bringing it to market.

Globally, almost 900,000 tons of bread, or about 24 million slices every day, are wasted every year, mainly due to an inherently short shelf life and poor storage conditions. Gerst’s winning product concept, WAVEuses germicidal UV-C light to sterilize pathogens on the surface of bread, dramatically extending its shelf life and eliminating the need for harsh chemical preservatives and single-use plastic packaging.

The IHA received applications from 26 schools in the United States, Canada, Austria, Mexico, and Romania. Vicki Matranga, IHA Design Programs Coordinator and Student Design Competition Manager, said, “The IHA program has become the benchmark for college-level competitions. Many U.S. faculty — and a growing number internationally — award the program annually to industrial design students because it’s a real-world exercise and each entry receives feedback from two industry professionals. . Students should identify user needs and market opportunities, research available competitive products, test designs with users, and examine production issues.

Second and third place winners

Second prizes of $2,300 each went to: Rose Kirby, a WWU junior from Seattle, for her Osmo evaporative refrigerator; and Nikolaus Potapow, a graduate of FH Joanneum University of Applied Sciences in Graz, Austria, for his RUFUS user relationship to extend the life of the device.

Osmo is a countertop evaporative refrigerator that uses only the power of water to keep fresh foods fresh and healthy. Most fruits and vegetables should be stored in a cool, moist environment. The fridge is often too dry, the counter too hot. The first-in, last-out design of conventional refrigerators invites waste, while Osmo helps keep food visible and healthy.

Rufus is a rotary-drive food mixer with multiple mixing attachments that provides a deeper user-product connection. It commits the user to assemble, maintain and repair the mixer to ultimately extend product life and reduce electronic waste.

Third place prizes of $1,200 each went to: WWU junior Elliot Quasha of Seattle, for the You Immersion boiler; WWU junior Carson Porter-Keese of Kent, Washington, on Big Herb Planter and junior Isabella Waite of Western Michigan University in Morley, Michigan, for Pip the potty buddy.

You is a portable alternative to an electric kettle that allows the user to heat water for tea or warm drinks with a portable immersion boiler. Pip the potty buddy solves two main problems: children don’t want to take potty breaks, and parents, nannies or childminders forget to remind children to go to the bathroom. This product helps adults keep track of their child’s bathroom schedule and makes potty breaks fun for kids. Big is a freestanding planter system that can effectively grow herbs upside down to save counter space for kitchen activities. Additionally, Gro waters itself by absorbing and utilizing moisture from the atmosphere.

Five honorable mentions awarded

Five projects earned honorable mention and their designers received a $250 grant:

  • Team of Sam Eisenberg, Mary Arevalo, Amberly Dawson, Sean Ostrowski and Kasey Connelly, juniors from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Mosaic Smart puzzle
  • Iowa State University senior Emily Goergen Last namea nebulizer
  • Arizona State University Junior Mohammad Shadab Naveed Cook camping stove
  • Rinona Metaj and Jaclyn Jamieson, seniors from Carleton University, Singing Stove Kettle
  • Yuanqing Li, senior of the Cleveland Institute of Art, Mocha Litter

Judges include seven previous winners

This year’s winners were chosen by a respected 14-person jury, including designers from consumer and industrial product companies, design consultants, educators and seven past winners. In total, the judges spent many volunteer hours reviewing the submissions, which consist of written materials, sketches, technical drawings and photos.

Along with Cunningham, the judging panel included: Brian Bock, Industrial Designer, Hamilton Beach Brands, Glen Allen, Va. ; 2015 winner Evan Cincotta, Head of Design, Susteau, New York; Earle Cramer, senior industrial designer, Newell Brands, Kalamazoo, Michigan; Robert Giacolo, 1995 winner, new product development program manager, Transcendia, Franklin Park, Illinois; Carly Hagins, IDSA, Associate Professor of Product Design, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo; 2002 winner Lisa Heim-Yoo, design manager, Nu-Way Industries, Inc., Des Plaines, Illinois; 2010 winner Teddy Lu, Creative Director, VEO, Chicago; Anastasia Miller, 2018 Winner, Senior Industrial Designer, Doris Dev, Brooklyn, NY; 1996 winner Jennifer Nemec, Ideation Studio, Chicago; Audra Norvilas, senior design director, Kimberly-Clark, Chicago; David Richter-O’Connell, IDSA, assistant professor, industrial design, University of Wisconsin-Stout, Menomonie; Brandon Rodriguez, 2018 Winner, Industrial Designer, Smart Design, Brooklyn, NY; and Kimberlee Wilkens, Director, BDes in Industrial Design, and Assistant Professor, Industrial Design, University of Illinois at Chicago.

29 years of outstanding student design

This is the 29th year that winning design students have been honored by the IHA at its annual fair, raising student awareness of careers in industrial design and highlighting the impact of design on the global homewares industry. Since the competition began in 1993, more than 6,200 students have participated, and each has come away with an educational experience that the design profession recognizes as unique.

“Winning the IHA student competition was a career turning point,” said 2018 winner Anastasia Miller, one of this year’s judges. “I remember being equally shocked and thrilled when Vicki called me to let me know that my project partner and I had won the contest. From there, it was a whirlwind of interviews, meeting past winners, and flying to Chicago to exhibit our design. During the fair, I met future colleagues, friends and professional advisers. As a judge last year, it was exciting to see the students think holistically about the design process and welcome a new group of winners to the IHA community.


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