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E-waste design competition at Illinois expanding to international event

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L. Brian Stauffer

A member of the Centuria team explains their project during the first Sustainable E-waste Design Competition on April 16, 2009, at the University of Illinois. The competition expands internationally this semester.

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1/6/2010 | Sharita Forrest, Arts Editor | 217-244-1072; slforres@illinois.edu

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Of the millions of cutting-edge electronic gadgets exchanged as gifts this holiday season, many soon will become expensive dust collectors as the pace of technological change renders cell phones, computers and other electronic components obsolete almost as quickly as eager consumers can unwrap and learn how to use them.

An estimated 2.5 million tons of electronic products are discarded each year, and devising economical and environmentally responsible methods for managing this e-waste is an issue of growing concern to environmentalists and world leaders.

Creative and environmentally conscious thinkers will have the opportunity to showcase their ideas for recycling e-waste during the International E-Waste Design Competition hosted by the School of Art and Design and the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center at the U. of I.

This is the second year of the competition, which is being expanded from a campus event to an international event. A total of $16,000 in prize money will be awarded to six winning teams.

Participants will compete in either of two categories: “designer/artist,” for entries that focus on the aesthetic elements and human factors of design; and the “technical/geek category,” for entries that create functional devices from electronic components.

Participants will submit original video compositions to the competition Web site for judging. A panel of judges comprising representatives from Fortune 500 companies will select winners for the six monetary awards: a platinum award of $4,000, a gold award of $3,000 and a silver award of $1,000 in each category. Honorary mention awards may be given as well at the judges’ discretion.

Finalists will be presented to the public and awards announced April 20 as part of the International E-Waste Video Festival to be held at the U. of I.

Participants must be 18 years or older and be current college students or have graduated in May 2006 or later. The competition is open to teams and individuals, and collaboration across disciplines, backgrounds and ages is encouraged.

Dell Computer and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are sponsoring this year’s competition.

Eighty-one students, divided into 21 teams, competed for $12,000 in tuition support and other prizes during the 2009 competition. Judges for the 2009 competition included  representatives from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center; Dell Inc.; the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Bureau of Energy and Recycling; Microsoft Corp.; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The competition originated in conjunction with a class on sustainability and e-waste issues taught by William Bullock, a professor of industrial design in the School of Art and Design at the U. of I. Again this year, students in the class will be encouraged to submit their class projects to the international competition, and their projects will be exhibited locally.

“The University of Illinois, along with other institutions of higher learning around the world, are home to the students who represent the future of industrial design and engineering, marketing and business, arts and design and other areas,” Bullock said. “This competition gives them the challenge of doing something positive and showing how they can design to extend the life of electronics and create new uses for electronic waste.”

Along with the competition, a communitywide e-waste collection will be held to help people dispose of unwanted electronic items and provide U. of I. students participating in the competition with materials for their creations.

The competition and the industrial design e-waste course that Bullock teaches are educational components of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, a consortium of leaders in the public and private sectors dedicated to developing sustainable designs and production, remanufacturing and recycling practices for electronic devices.

Registration for the competition is free and opens Jan 11. Participants must submit their video entries by April 1.

Details about registration, submitting entries and judging criteria are available on the competition Web site, http://ewaste.illinois.edu. Questions can be directed to Bullock at wbullock@illinois.edu or 217-265-0873, and to Joy Scrogum, an information specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8940.

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