Western’s 2018 Senior Industrial Design Cohort Wins Gold in the ‘Olympics of Design Competitions’

The capstone project for any cohort in Western’s Industrial Design program, called the Senior Design Studio, is historically the crucible through which all graduating seniors must pass: intense, grueling, and the ultimate challenge of their four years on campus, the project never fails to be something that the new alumni look back on with a mixture of pride and relief.

This past winter though, the 2018 seniors raised the bar about as high as it can be raised, as their project was entered in the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA), the longest running and most prestigious design awards in existence – and came away with a gold medal, the first ever such award for Western.

“For our discipline, this is bigger than a NCAA championship, it's more like winning an Olympic medal,” said Professor of Industrial Design Jason Morris,  “Hundreds of students and professionals from around the world submit entries in the hope of winning a Gold IDEA – and now we have one. Our students are truly world class.”

Perhaps most impressive was the fact that the 2018 grads continued to work on the submission for six months after they graduated in order to submit it to the 2019 awards in February, with the announcement of their success occurring last August, more than a year after they had left campus.

Under Professor Del King, the cohort worked with Milwaukee Tools and Anvil Studios on a “blue sky” (no limits) project about the future of tools and the industrial workplace to produce a “tool ecosystem” in which robots and connected tools worked together to support the efforts of their human counterparts. This ecosystem was composed of four unique tool systems that target four critical areas of major construction: security, safety, movement and communication. 

The safety and security components showcased a responsive perimeter around a construction site lit by motion-activated lamps that sends messages to site admins when activated, as well as a new generation of hard hats with GPS sensors and cameras.

The movement group focused on a design featuring a drone that could ferry a wheeled toolbox around a jobsite, and the communications group focused on a way to improve job-site exchange of information through a concept called the Facilitation Hub.

WWU alumna Lisa Collander of Bellingham, who was part of the senior studio cohort, said that the project, called “The Future of Connected Tools,” was a perfect example of what happens when a group comes together and the results of its effort exceed the sum of its individual parts.

“It’s amazing what an entire group can do when you work together,” she said. “All the three groups within the cohort worked as an interconnected unit, and each group went above and beyond.”

“In the end, we gave Milwaukee more than they expected from us and produced something that was more than we expected from ourselves, too.”

For more information about the Industrial Design program cohort’s Gold IDEA Award or its project, contact Western Washington University Professor of Industrial Design Jason Morris at Jason.morris@wwu.edu.

cover of presentation book showing project's deliverables
storyboard in presentation shows how some of the products would be used on a work site