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Woelfel Basks In Students’ Success At Design Competition

Published: July 15, 2011

CSULB design students recently won first place and honorable mention in the 2011 International E-Waste Design Competition held as part of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

CSULB design majors Ulysses Martinez, Blake Robertson and Victor Ramos won first place in the “prevention category” as part of their “Edentify” project and received $5,000. In addition, students Anthony Okopnik, Stella Lee and Mahmut Coban won an honorable mention and received $500 for their “Re:use” group. The competition received submissions from Hong Kong, England, Ireland, South Korea, India, South Africa and the U.S.

College students and recent graduates from around the world were encouraged to submit their ideas for products or services, explained Design Department’s Wesley Woelfel. Entries were meant to help prevent e-waste generation through life-cycle considerations (the E-Waste Prevention Category) or to incorporate e-waste components into a new and useful item (the E-Waste Reuse Category).

The winners were announced at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the coordinating agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative. ISTC is part of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

A total of 29 entries were submitted, 12 in the reuse category and 17 in the prevention category. Jurors awarded monetary prizes to the top three projects within each category as well as three honorable mentions. First-place winners received $5,000, second place earned $3,000 and third place wasgiven $1,000. A total of $20,000 was awarded made possible through contributions by such sponsors as Dell and Walmart.

In the prevention category, the Martinez-Robertson-Ramos project “Edentify” was recognized with a platinum award of $5,000 for their smart phone app used to scan the barcodes of electronic products and present the user with information on various aspects of product life cycle, from the manufacturing to post-consumer phases.

Recycling information would be included and consumers could see point values for different products. “The idea incorporates games and rewards into the point system in an effort to create awareness and inspire e-waste prevention in a fun and immersive way,” said Woelfel, a member of the university since 2008.

The Lee-Okopnik-Coban project titled “Re:use” allowed for the disposal, awareness and discussion of e-waste including the placement of e-waste collection bins throughout Long Beach. Collected e-waste would be sent to a local recycling facility, separated, accumulated, reprocessed and remanufactured.

“The design students are pleased by the chance to compete,” said Woelfel. “Winning competitions like these is good for the students and good for the faculty. Our first priority is to give the students the best education possible. Victories like these help with their work and keep them enthusiastic about what they’re doing.”

The Edentify team was pleased with their success. “I am quite happy with the win. I would be more overjoyed if it wasn’t for my calm and composed demeanor,” laughed Ramos, currently in pursuit of his B.S. degree in industrial design. “The fact that we competed with many students from other countries makes it even more impressive to me. The best part was the learning process and knowing how to replicate it in the future.”

Ramos felt one reason for the team’s recognition was the project’s execution.

“All the criteria were met and we were able to tap into the human psyche to design for the target user,” he explained. “The product created built upon many levels and touched many crucial points that would make it work according to our research. In addition, our group mechanics were great and our individual roles were efficiently used.”

Ramos thanked the CSULB Design Department for its support. “The methodology class we were doing the project for gave us a set of goals and parameters. In the same class we are taught how to generate ideas, think outside the box and see the bigger picture,” he said. “Furthermore, as designers, we are always bound by sets of rules that dictate how one is supposed to design: color, contrast, focal point, target user, eye movement and other relevant information. These are concepts that we are taught from day one in the CSULB Design Department. Professor Woelfel and the rest of our classmates were also kind enough to provide us with valuable feedback during our in-class presentations. For this we are quite grateful.

Woelfel Basks In Design Students' Success

“This is one of the most intense programs on the CSULB campus,” he said of the department. “The level of work and stress you will accumulate will be completely up to the individual student and fully contingent on their degree of self-discipline. You will learn many skills and how to apply them properly. It is certainly not for the slackers and party animals.”

Edentify project member Martinez felt excited by the win. “I believe the Edentify app was recognized for its simplicity and its effectiveness in creating demand for greener products through community,” said Martinez, who is on his way to a B.S. degree in industrial design. “The Design Department taught me effective methodologies to generate successful design solutions. You must be passionate about design and willing to learn a wide range of skills. I believe CSULB offers the best, most affordable and diverse education around.”

CSULB design major Robertson described himself as “ecstatic” about the project’s triumph. “Our team tried to create a fully rounded solution to the problem of e-waste with our submission, Edentify,” explained Robertson, who plans to complete his B.S. degree in industrial design in spring. “We looked at what our project could do to help prevent e-waste, but also how and, most importantly, why users would take part in our solution. We designed a smart phone app that could be implemented today and is not reliant on future developments.”

Robertson applauded the support he received from the department and from Woelfel. “He guided us to think about what aspects of the app’s design were not yet fully developed,” he said. “He also helped us find weak spots in the commercial we made, and gave suggestions on how to strengthen them. With our student shows and newly re-tooled Duncan Anderson Lecture Series, the Design Department is drawing more attention from the local, and not so local, design community.”

Coban was pleased by his team’s honorable mention and the $500 received for the “Re:use” project. He felt a big reason for the project’s recognition was the constant interaction between team members and the department. “As an exchange student studying at CSULB for one semester, I honestly didn’t want to leave,” he said. Coban is a resident of London and is pursuing a degree in automotive design from Coventry University.

The Design Department wants its graduates to emerge from the university as strong thinkers, Woelfel explained. “A goal for our design methodology course is to train the students to think on their feet and be capable to create something in a specific time period,” he said. “It is the adrenaline rush of the big challenge. It helps them think on their feet as design professionals. Our students need to be able to design and design well at the drop of a hat. In addition, our design methodology course stresses iterative design using prototypes for quick and dirty testing. Today, it is easy to create computer models but this may encourage the creation of a final design without testing it. This approach of testing and strong thinking helps give our students confidence and creates leaders in the field of design.”

–Richard Manly