Every year, students from all over the globe compete in the Electrolux Design Lab, a contest inviting budding designers to show off their best ideas for kitchen appliances that address the needs of consumers. Established in 2003, the Design Lab gives undergraduate and graduate industrial design students an opportunity to win cash prizes and a grand prize of $7,745 dollars. Winners also receive a six-month internship at one of Electrolux's global design centers.
Contestants are asked to submit designs that are two or three years out. the designs should focus on the needs of modern kitchens, innovative design, and creativity. The 2007 competition centered around convenience, portability, and sustainable designs, and--if the winners are any indication--we have a lot to look forward to in future kitchens.
The third place prize of $3,098 dollars went to He Cheng Fei from Jiangnan University in China for his Go Fresh fridge. The fridge looks like an overgrown beehive, but it saves a ton of energy by compartmentalizing each cubby; thus, you don't expel as many fluorocarbons standing in front of one, big, open door, trying to decide what to make for dinner. The honeycomb holes are all temperature-controlled, and the air inlet valve to each shuts off as soon as the proper temperature is reached.
Coming in second place was Laura Pandelle for École Boulle's Pebble, a portable solar food cooker. The Pebble uses induction cooking and spray-on solar cells to cook on the go, saving energy while keeping up with the growing need for kitchen mobility. Laura won $4,647 dollars for her design.
The grand prize went to e-Wash by evente Szabó from the Moholy-Nagy University of Art & Design in Hungary. The e-Wash is a futuristic-looking washing machine that uses soap nuts instead of detergent to wash normal-sized loads of clothes. Soap nuts (also known as soapberries) grow on trees in tropical regions, and are named for their natural detergent-like properties. They can be put into a bag in the washing machine, and they're safe for cleaning silk and other delicate materials. According to Gizmag, the design was inspired by countries who have been using soap nuts for centuries to clean their clothes. Since they can be reused several times, Szabó says that the average person will only need about a kilogram of soap nuts (just over two pounds) for an entire year.
This year, contestants for the Design Lab are asked to submit designs that address food storage, cooking, and/or washing, specifically for the Internet generation. According to the contest Web site, "Entries should reflect the Internet generation's core interests and concerns, like mobility, convenience, time, materials, personalization, entertaining, technology, and sustainability. The Internet generation comprises brand-conscious, busy, young professionals between 25-35 who are independent, concerned about the environment, and whose lives are intertwined with technology and online social networks."
Electrolux should announce the winners at the end of the year. Until then, I'm crossing my fingers for a solar-powered washing machine (I'm running low on quarters for the laundromat). If you want to read up on the competition, you can do so on the Design Lab Web site.