Hope College junior Evelyn Ritter of Libertyville, Ill., was a member of an intercollegiate team that won second place as selected by the event’s judges and “People’s Choice” recognition in the first annual Wege Prize competition for undergraduate students attending a college or university in West Michigan.

She was among students from three colleges who participated as members of “Wicked Solutions Inc.”  The team’s name reflected the contest’s expressed emphasis on prompting students to work together “to solve a truly Wicked Problem.”

Sponsored by Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University and The Wege Foundation of Grand Rapids, the competition challenged the teams to design a product, service or business model that could function within and help create a shift toward a circular economy, a cycle in which resources can be re-adapted for use without limiting the desirability of products or loss of revenue.  The entries were judged on cogency, process, impact and illustration.

“Wicked Solutions Inc.” developed “Bags to Bags,” a proposal to create plastic bags from a plant-based polymer that the team noted is efficiently reprocessed and to implement a system for returning the bags for recycling.  The entry described the proposed system as more desirable than the use of petroleum-based plastic bags, or the negative consequences of reusable bags or paper bags.

Ritter is a mechanical engineering major who is minoring in environmental science and mathemetics.  She is a 2011 graduate of Libertyville High School and the daughter of Walter and Janet Ritter of Libertyville.

Participation requirements included that each team be comprised of members representing at least three different academic disciplines and at least two different undergraduate institutions.  The “Wicked Solutions Inc.” team also included students from Aquinas College and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, whose fields included sustainable business and industrial design.

All submissions were initially judged on the basis of a 40-inch by 30-inch pdf proposal, with a review panel selecting five finalists for display at Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and online.  Members of the public viewed the entries and voted for the one that impressed them most for the “People’s Choice” award, and the finalists presented their solutions to a panel of guest judges that selected the first- and second-place winners.  The prizes included $15,000 for first place, $10,000 for second place and $5,000 for the People’s Choice award, to be divided among the team members.

More information about the competition, including the five finalist teams’ proposals, is available online at wegeprize.org