What is the Biodesign Challenge?

The Biodesign Challenge offers art and design students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology in a competition that highlights student work. Our organizers connect classrooms with a team of biologists and experts at GenSpace  to guide the students as they develop their ideas.

At the end of the semester, the winning teams are invited to New York City to showcase their designs in front of members the academic, industrial, and design communities at the Biodesign Summit in June 2018. A great video on the challenge highlighting student projects can be found here: http://biodesignchallenge.org

How do I sign-up at Rutgers?

Sign up for 50:080:490 Special Topics in Sculpture
Rutgers, Camden, Mon/Wed 9:35am to 10:55am, the course may also meet at NB and is available on Skype and Sakai for students at a distance
This semester, Special Topics in Sculpture, 50:080:490, addresses the subject of biotechnology as an emergent media in art and design. This class explores how we might we harness this medium to improve the form and function of our designed world— our garments, buildings, foods, medicines and infrastructure, while considering the speculative and poetic possibilities of this medium through art making. Project work from this class will be juried and included in the 2018 Biodesign Challenge (BDC). This international competition brings together students in art, design and science to address the pressing ecological issues of our time while envisioning the future applications of biotechnology. The final project from Special Topics in Sculpture, will be juried and the winner will be presented in June 2018 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of the BDC. There are no official pre-requisites for this class, however 50:080:103 and 50:080:226 are both recommended precursors. Students need no background in art making to take this course.

Why art and design?

Creativity and design play an integral role in the development of any new media. All products start as a design process before they’re brought to market. For an emerging technology, designers’ visions both anticipate and inspire new applications. Their visions drive the scientific community and also influence society’s desires around technologies.

Biotechnology is unique because it harnesses life. Life as a technology introduces new capabilities and raises new concerns. Biotechnology has brought about new medicines and greener modes of production. It has also created new risks. As the science finds its way into our world and our products, artists and designers need a full understanding of these concerns, so that when they are asked to design with biology, they do so creatively, thoughtfully, and ethically.

What are participating students saying?

“I learned that designing grounded in biodesign is not a limitation, but a lens through which I had never looked to consider the limitless possibilities that arise in combining biotech and design.”

– Student survey response, NYU


“I learned the importance of art in science and science in art. I learned that the two aren’t polar opposites but rather different mindsets that both want to create something wonderful.”

– Student survey response, RPI


“Never before had I had a sense of being able to create something truly new and relevant to a field (even when I had no clue of what I was doing at times). This is something that I had never been able to experience in a class.”

– Student survey response, UPenn