LONG BEACH - Matthew Schwartz, a Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) design graduate, has turned his senior project into an all-expense paid trip to London, where he will compete as one of eight finalists in Electrolux' Design Lab 2011 with his concept of the Onda Portable Microwave.Founded in 2002, the annual global design contest was created to find and support the emerging talents of industrial design students and recent graduates in the area of home appliances design. Each year, students from around the world submit ideas for future appliances based on a certain theme. This year's theme was "intelligent mobility." Electrolux received more than 1,300 entries for this year's competition and chose 25 as semifinalists before whittling that number down to eight finalists, who will now present their designs in London on Sept. 7. Schwartz and the other seven finalists from Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Slovakia and South Korea will present their concept appliances to a jury of expert designers, who'll chose the winners based on the criteria of intuitive design, innovation and consumer insight. First prize is a six-month paid internship at an Electrolux global design center and 5,000 euros (approximately $7,100). Second prize is 3,000 euros (approximately $4,300) and third prize is 2,000 euros (approximately $2,850). Additionally, Electrolux will give out a "People's Choice Award" at the finals. The company is encouraging the public to go to its website and vote for its favorite design concept among this year's finalists. Voting goes until Sept. 7. "I am nervous but very excited to present to the judges," said Schwartz, who earned his bachelor's degree at CSULB in May. "In addition to presenting to the judges, there will be design professionals from all over Europe, general public in attendance at the event, and media, which creates a lot of pressure as well. But I am preparing and rehearsing my presentation so that I am as familiar as possible with what I will be saying. Schwartz pointed out that Electrolux has created physical models of all of the concepts for the finalists that will be on display. He'll also give a PowerPoint and oral presentation describing his concept. "I am hoping that this will be the beginning of an exciting career," he said in anticipation of the finals. "Whether I win one of the top prizes or not, I am looking forward to meeting many people and making connections with people all over the world. It's exciting to think of the opportunities that I have ahead of myself." Schwartz' Onda Portable Microwave is a small device used in conjunction with pre-packaged meals that transmits microwaves directly into the sealed food package to heat and cook the contained food. The device slides onto the packaging of prepared meals. As the seal of the packaging is broken, the handheld oven creates a circuit connection. Paper batteries produce the energy needed to cook the food. (See a brief video on Schwartz' entry on the Electrolux website) "When the device is attached to the dish, they seal together and the enclosed food container acts as the cooking chamber which contains all of the microwaves safely inside," he said. "Power-paper batteries produce steady and eco-friendly power for efficient cooking and allow it to be used virtually anywhere. It is perfect for use at home, in the office, for outdoor use, and could be easily adapted for military personnel or natural disaster relief as well." Schwartz feels one reason for his recognition was his design's convenience and practicality. "Traditional microwaves limit users to the confines of the kitchen, but the Onda Portable Microwave solves that problem," he said. "It is a smart step in the evolution of a common product, which hasn't seen much change since its creation half a century ago." Competition judges praised Schwartz's design for its lateral thinking and creativity, which he believes refers to the configuration of the product. "Instead of having a big box that permanently sits on the counter top, you have a product or system comprised of two separate pieces that when joined together, create a device that works in a very similar way but on a much smaller and more convenient scale," he noted. "It is essentially taking the components of a traditional microwave and repackaging them in a whole new way." Schwartz leaves for London on Sunday, Sept. 4, with the finals presentation taking place on Wednesday, Sept. 7. When he arrives, he said the experience will be all business with rehearsals, professional speakers and opportunities to network with other designers.
********** Published: September 01, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 20