For the second year in a row, a team of CCS graduate students took the Overall Winner award at this year’s Biodesign Challenge 2021 (BDC), an international education program and competition that partners students with biologists, artists, and designers to envision, create, and critique emerging biotechnology.
The CCS team presented their project, “Re-Form,” at the Biodesign Challenge Summit alongside 52 other student teams from 20 countries around the world. Each project was judged by a panel of over 60 esteemed experts from academia, the arts, and industry. This year’s finalists were from 12 countries across six continents.
Within their winning work, the team questioned the use of consumer-packaged goods (CPGs) – If consumer-packaged goods require a limited existence, why use materials with such permanence? How can they create a bioengineered alternative with the ability to biodegrade once it has served its purpose?
Re-Form addresses these questions through the development of a sustainable and biodegradable alternative to the use of thermo-plastics in CPGs. Re-Form diverts undervalued by-products to create a biodegradable alternative using spent grains and molasses. Molasses and spent grains are both used in the agriculture industry for bioremediation of soil and water, and because they are byproducts, no new land use is needed. This material can provide benefits to our environment rather than harm it. Re-Form is biodegradable, compostable, and free of the negative impacts its petroleum based counterparts have.
The winning project was by CCS MFA Color & Materials Design students Sarah Craven and Joseph Cardenas under the guidance of Adjunct Professor Melanie McClintock. Not only did the team demonstrate their creativity, but also their adaptability and resilience as they worked under the added challenge of a global pandemic.
“Taking part in the Biodesign Challenge has been an ambitious, broadening, and gratifying experience.” said winning student Sarah Craven. “Jo and I were able to combine our prototyping know-how, research, and material insight to create Re-Form. It was truly thrilling and an honor to be named the Overall Winner, and I could not be more grateful to the College and the BDC for the support we have received.”
“We were overjoyed that the Re-Form project was among the teams recognized by the Biodesign Challenge. During another extraordinary year we found ways to bring students together both in person, on-campus and remotely, experimenting with materials, making samples and prototypes,” said Sally Erickson Wilson, Chair MFA Color & Materials Design at CCS. “Prior to the BDC Summit we had a total of three teams working diligently over the course of five months, problem solving using a range of innovative approaches, all exciting and valid. I was impressed with the teamwork, I think it’s important to work side by side at the bench as ideas surface. We were fortunate that our facilities enabled us to do that.”
In years past, competition participants would have presented their projects at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, but this year, due to the pandemic, BDC had to pivot to an online format.
Past BDC teams have turned their projects into venture-backed companies and have collectively raised over $2.5 million in funds. Their projects and designs have won awards including the H&M Global Change Award and the National Geographic Chasing Genius Award. They have also exhibited at museums, galleries, and design festivals around the world, including Dutch Design Week, NYCxDesign, London Design Festival, the Tech Museum, and elsewhere.
Watch the winning presentation and read more about Re-Form here.