The Biodesign Challenge, founded by Daniel Grushkin, is a program and competition that partners university and high school students with artists, designers and biologists to re-imagine biotechnology. The competition runs during the academic year, where students work to develop and prototype their project through interdisciplinary collaboration, before presenting it to a panel of judges at Parsons School of Design and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
As a part of the judging panel, we evaluated wide ranging projects including Overall Winner, Runner Up, Outstanding Presentation, Outstanding Science, Outstanding Field Research, Outstanding Social Critique, ORTA Prize for Bioinspired Textiles Processes, Stella McCartney Prize for Sustainable Fashion and Outstanding Instructor. On day two of the gathering, our founder Natsai Audrey Chieza opened proceedings with a keynote at the Museum of Modern Art, following an introduction by Paola Antonelli who presented her latest curatorial project for the Milano Triennale, Broken Nature.
After much deliberation, the judges decided to award the overall winner to Juan Angulo, Laura Calderón, Paola Camacho and Isabel Pulido from Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. Their project, “PseudoFreeze”, took a protein from a snow-making company and modified it so that it would be possible to create ice at higher temperatures. Their project is a refrigeration system that harnesses energy from proteins from Pseudomonas syringae, which is a certain type of bacteria that infects many species of plants. Their refrigeration system is designed to transport vaccines, requires no batteries or outside power sources and reduces the consumption of electricity. It speaks to the major issues associated with transporting heat-sensitive items in remote areas or to those offline from an electrical grid. Their refrigeration system permits water to freeze at 4º Celsius (39º Fahrenheit) which wins over current water freezing conditions that are at 0º Celsius (32º Fahrenheit).
Just as impressive were the the competition’s runner ups and also winners of the outstanding field research prize. Anne Hu, Trisha Sathish and Emily Takara are a trio of high school students from the Bay Area in California, who took on an extracurricular from Nest Makerspace lead by artist and teacher Corinne Okada Takara who also won the outstanding instructor award. Their project titled GIY (Grow It Yourself) Bio Buddies, designed a toy kit that allowed for the introduction of biomaterials consisting of leather produced kombucha and mycelium to children of all ages. The team wanted to increase interest in STEM subjects while also breaking away from they average plastic materials normally used throughout the toy industry. This was the first year that the Biodesign Challenge admitted highschoolers into the challenge – in past years the challenge was reserved only for university students. These three bright young students have certainly set expectations high for not only highschoolers but for also top university students.
Other awards received throughout the day were won by “DEATH ON MARS” for outstanding presentation awarded to Bronwyn Hallis, Amanda Han and Charles Yuncken from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia; “MYCOKARST” for outstanding science awarded to Anna Budnikova from National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow; “THE OTHER TOWNSEND” for outstanding social critique awarded to Marley E. Townsend from California Institute of the Arts; “ENZER” for ORTA prize for bioinspired textiles processes awarded to Nicole Esquieres, Jacky Fang, Matthew Modica, Kristine O’Loughlin and Georgia Stewart from RMIT University, Australia; and “FLORA FUR” for the Stella McCartney Prize for sustainable fashion awarded to Isabella Bruski and Noah Silva from Fashion Institute of Technology.