The 2015 5th Annual IDSA-STL Midwest-Regional Student Design Competition

PGAV Designer Brian Pelcak presents on stage at IDSA in front of photos of SeaWorld's Aquatica and Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

The 2015 5th Annual IDSA-STL Midwest-Regional Student Design Competition


 – By Tony Schmidt, exhibit designer


On Saturday, October 24th, 2015 I had the wonderful opportunity to head up our 2015 IDSA-St. Louis Chapter’s 5th Annual IDSA-STL Student Design Competition and for the first time, in partnership with the Saint Louis Science Center. PGAV-Destinations was the top sponsor with the 1st place team receiving the PGAV Destinations Grand Prize.






The event was open to all students actively enrolled in a post-secondary Institution within the IDSA Midwest District. The aim for the competition was to provide an opportunity for development and presentation of unique design solutions for review by a jury of professionals, and presented to the public-at-large. The opportunity is intended to allow design students the ability to supplement their portfolios while also providing exposure to a professional environment. Student entrants were strongly encouraged to work within their teams collaborating across multiple disciplines (to engage student members within and outside of the design disciplines). Individually we are talented; however, when we share those talents with one another, we are Innovators. How far can we go?


Within IDSA-STL one of the values our chapter has come to embrace is our partnerships. We have learned that it is through our partnerships that we are better. Through our partnerships we are made different, we expand and are more dynamic. This notion of partnering is fundamental to this competition, as partnerships are required to as a team of at least two people. However, we strive to grow the competition to become increasingly multidisciplinary where, for example, I.D. students are collaborating with engineers, graphic designers, illustrators, architects, urban planners, scientists, historians, business majors, etc.

In September of 2014, while we were hosting a Maker event as part of the annual St. Louis Design Week event series, some good fortune came our way. Jenny Heim, Director of Strategic Planning and Projects at the Saint Louis Science Center, approached us with an interest such a partnership. Of course we said yes and the outcome brought our event to the Saint Louis Science Center.


The Saint Louis Science Center Mission Statement: “To ignite and sustain lifelong science and technology learning.” As far as we are concerned at IDSA-STL that statement is pure gold. We began our collaboration with SLSC in February 2015 when we staged a series of brainstorming sessions at a local bar to determine the 2015 competition challenge. We arrived at ‘Science Corner,’ which is comprised of approximately 42,000 square feet of land and located at the northeast corner of Kingshighway Blvd. and Manchester Ave., within the City of Saint Louis. Science Corner sits at one of the busiest intersections in the city of St. Louis and is an entrance to the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood and The Grove entertainment district.

The challenge was to conceptualize, develop, and deliver an innovative design solution which enacts the Science Center’s mission and engages the community in and around Science Corner in transformative ways. The design solution was to be specifically sensitive to the needs of the surrounding Forest Park Southeast neighborhood. Additional considerations were to consider staffing, architecture, digital technology, and other topics students were to determine relevant. Design processes utilized were to consider the methods by which the Science Center could communicate with and in support of the St. Louis region.

IDSA article:


IDSA announcement:


Three fantastic universities and six teams competed:

Southern Illinois University Carbondale:

Faculty Advisor: Aaron Scott

  • Team A, Pythagorus: Brittany Olsen, Phillip Kovari, Justin Schupbach, Kathryn Underwood, Blake Green




  • Team B, Tri-Arch: Bryan Waldrop, Anthony Bleecker, Diana Enuenwosu, Caleb Clausing, Coleman Cromwell



The University of Kansas

Faculty Advisor: Huw Thomas

  • Team 1: Colin Bain, Tucker Brown, Ryan Cunningham, Kelsey Daly, Ben Oppenheimer




  • Team 2: Andre Cobbins, Michael (Dylan) Floyd, Aydan Kinney, Navdeep Singh, Ben Velde




  • Team 3: Weiying Chen, Parker Lathrop, Ryan Meek, Eric Shipley, Eric Tetenbaum




Southern Illinois University Edwardsville:

  • Paul Cefaratti & Alex Anderson

Bert Vescolani, CEO & President of the Saint Louis Science Center, provided a brilliant keynote speech where he featured three young innovators beginning with “The story of innovation and design through the eyes of a nine-year old.” Bert pivoted his speech from a message that we need to “Change the way we teach!” and to “Collaborate!” Bert concluded with “The world looks different to a science literate person.” Who will be the next great innovator?


Each year we seek out outstanding professionals from the St. Louis community to serve as judges at the competition. Biographies of each of the judges were provided as hand-outs on each chair in the 200-seat auditorium. The following are the seven judges represented at the event:


There were two event sponsors who provided presentations regarding the design and innovation at their firms:

  • PGAV Destinations and Nestlé Purina Petcare, Inc.
  • Thanks to our supporters (including the Saint Louis Science Center) we were able to house this event within a tremendous venue complete with audio-visuals, catered lunch, signage, and fantastic awards.





We are fortunate within Saint Louis to have many tremendous businesses here and in particular, outstanding design firms. We had a small sampling of eight firms present who sat at designated tables reviewing portfolios and sharing industry insights. These firms included:








The Presentations:

Each of the six teams were allowed ten minutes to present monitored by a designated timer. The judges were to then follow with up to three questions at the conclusion of each presentation. The quality of each teams’ responses was measured into their evaluations. Judging criteria included:

  • Creativity & Innovation of idea based on the problem statement outlined within the competition brief. Particularly:
    • To invent an engaging design solution for an experience that could take place at the Saint Louis Science Center’s ‘Science Corner’
    • Solutions were to be in keeping with the SLSC mission statement and the Southeast Forest Park Neighborhood
  • Demonstration of their Design & Development Process as logical and well-researched
  • Demonstration of Communication of Idea in a captivating and visually attractive way.

Directly following the final design presentation, the judges took a 30-minute break to deliberate and determine a 1st and 2nd place winner. They then presented their observations for each team.

The 2015 winners:

  • The 2nd Place prize went to The University of Kansas, Team #1, for their design of a “park that increased appreciation of science through art.” The 2nd place award included a crystal trophy with event inscription.


  • The 1st place Grand Prize went to The University of Kansas, Team #3, for their concept of a “Raw Cultivation Center” where they “aimed to create a space for the community to focus on urban farming, raw foods, and nutritional education through technology.” The 1st place grand prize was named after PGAV Destinations with a cash award of $2,500. This winning team received a crystal trophy with engraved event inscription and an oversized check in the amount of $2,500. The actual cash amount was provided separately.

Medals with the event inscription were provided to ALL competitors, faculty, judges, and members of the science center, IDSA members, our sponsors and design firms attending.


Plans for 2016 are already in the works!

For more photos please click here.



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