Students envision sustainable future through biodesign solutions

"Spoil Me" was designed by Lauren DiWilliams, Kiley Gallant, Jack McDowall and Julia Stam

A Screenshot from a video for "Spoil Me," a project in which students developed ways to mitigate post-consumer milk waste. The design was runner-up for the Biodesign Challenge's Barilla Prize for Regenerative Living Ecosystems.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Industrial Design program has positioned itself to further explore the possibilities of biodesign — an emerging movement that bridges art, design and biology to reimagine a more sustainable and equitable future. 

Last spring, teams of students developed product ideas that leverage biotechnology as part of the program’s participation in the Biodesign Challenge, an international student competition and educational program that partners high school and university students with expert artists, designers and scientists. 

Projects were created in inaugural industrial design junior studio courses led by Adjunct Faculty Lorianne Resch and Associate Professor Amos Scully. Students responded to the Biodesign Challenge’s prompt of addressing global and regional food waste. 

Each RIT team examined how to make use of waste in either the local apple or dairy industries. They gained insider information by speaking with Chris Hartman, founder and President of Headwater Food Hub, and were also guided by Brenda Abu, Ph.D., assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences and Technology’s Wegmans School of Health and Nutrition. Abu assisted the RIT students as an expert consultant and delivered a presentation on food waste. 

The designers also reached out to local farms and orchards for additional support and research.

One the RIT projects was ultimately selected for submission to the Biodesign Challenge — “Spoil Me,” a system that mitigates post-consumer milk waste by providing an online compendium of recipes using and alternative applications for spoiled milk that might otherwise be discarded. 

The project was runner-up for one of the competition’s sponsored awards, the Barilla Prize for Regenerative Living Ecosystems. The finalist group of Industrial Design students — Lauren DiWilliams, Kiley Gallant, Jack McDowall and Julia Stam — was honored and presented at the Biodesign Challenge summit over the summer. The competition featured more than 50 teams from 20 countries. 

“Spoil Me is here to educate and inform on one of the most untapped materials of our generation,” the narrator in the team’s final video reads.

"The Biodesign Challenge recognizes and celebrates the importance of working in a holistic, interdisciplinary fashion, where students are challenged to envision both the possibilities and the potential ethical pitfalls that arise when designing with life,” Resch said.

Resch is again planning to shape her junior-level studio course around participation in the Biodesign Challenge this spring. She said she hopes to make it a collaborative class by also engaging RIT students and faculty in disciplines related to life sciences, biotechnology or sustainability. Interested students and faculty can contact Resch at

Below are select projects from the spring 2021 biodesign classes.

"Spoil Me" by Lauren DiWilliams, Kiley Gallant, Jack McDowall and Julia Stam

"Renascent" by Tyne Bechtoldt, Claire Goetzke, Lesley Mai and Richard Yu

"Jounce" by Sam Carroll, Eleanor Green and Will Key

"Hexagon" by James McDowell, Xiao Nie and Shu Wang

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