Industrial design team wins first place in International E-Waste Design Competition

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Image illustrating how components of a cell phone designed by a team of RIT industrial design students can be easily disassembled.

A team of four industrial design students won first place and $5,000 in the International E-Waste Design Competition. Da Deng, a graduate student in the industrial design program, and fourth-year industrial design majors Chandra Baker, Chris Platt and Jason Schuler bested 25 other team submissions from around the world to take the top prize in the artist/designer category.

The competition was part of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The international contest is designed to prompt the industrialized world to discuss product designs for environmentally responsible computing and entertainment.

The team’s project was part of the advanced product design course taught winter quarter by Alex Lobos, RIT assistant professor of industrial design. After evaluating the issues surrounding electronic waste and which electronic products are disposed of and why, the RIT team chose to design a cell phone.

“Due to service providers and planned obsolescence, the average American replaces their mobile phone every 12 to 18 months, resulting in the disposal of more than 150 million phones each year,” says Baker.

The RIT winning team, called team revOlve, designed a cell phone that can disassemble and includes a generator component and a replaceable hardware cartridge. Their overall goals to improve the life-cycle of the product were to design a phone that was simple, timeless and intuitive to dissemble. In addition, the students wanted to create a sense of emotional attachment to the phone in order to increase the length of its use.

“The generator would require a significant enough of an investment that the user would be encouraged to replace the hardware cartridge to update their cell phone instead of discarding the entire thing and buying a new one,” says Platt.

Entries were judged in two categories: technical/geek and artist/designer. A total of 33 entries were submitted from student teams in the United States, Canada, Cyprus, South Korea, Australia and Turkey. There were a total of 26 submissions in the artist/designer category, and seven in the Technical/Geek category. Prizes were awarded for the top three projects within each category, along with two honorable mentions in the Artist/Designer category. To see all the winners visit

“Prior to finding out we won, I already considered this my favorite assignment in my college career,” says Baker. “Our group dynamics were great. Everyone had a different strength and everyone more than rose to the occasion. It was truly a team effort and a fulfilling experience. I was already proud of our project outcome. Winning just confirmed the beauty in passionate honest design.”

Adds Platt: “As a student it feels great to have designed a product that addresses these important issues and have these ideas confirmed and reinforced by industry leaders. I believe designers can be both the cause and solution for these types of problems and it feels good to be able to design with honesty and have it be supported.”