The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show

March 2–4, 2025 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show
March 2—4 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

Six intuitive inventions that support happy and healthy homes secured top prizes at the International Housewares Association’s 31st annual Student Design Competition, the industry’s preeminent student design contest which has celebrated innovation for the house and home for over three decades. This year, IHA received a record-breaking 358 entries from 31 schools around the world. The winning products were an ultrasonic thawing device for quick and safe meat thawing; a sophisticated light therapy lamp for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder; a wobbling plant holder that aids both mental health and plant health; a combined air filtration and vacuum appliance; a rainwater recycling system for sustainable water use; and a tooth-brushing companion for kids.

The competition challenges college students to redesign an existing housewares product to meet the needs of the future or to create a concept for a new product. Winning projects are selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles and quality of entry materials. Since 1993, more than 6,900 entries have been submitted to the rigorous competition, which honors excellent design and communications skills. Winners have launched successful careers in the housewares and design industries and have returned to judge other student contestants.

The winning industrial design students and their products will be on display during The Inspired Home Show 2024, IHA’s global home + housewares marketplace, March 17-19 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. The winners and their products can be viewed on the Show’s website.

Alex Orelind, a senior at Western Washington University, won first place and $3,500 in grand prize money for SONA, an ultrasonic meat-thawing chamber with a cloche-like construction. The lid uses heat-generating, high-frequency sound waves to ensure uniform, safe and efficient thawing of frozen meat, poultry and fish products. SONA also features a wooden cutting board base and electromagnetic glass sides that change from frosted to clear to visually indicate when the meat is thawed.

SONA was a testament to both creativity and thoroughness in design, said judges in their comments. They noted its simple yet effective approach addresses a common problem in culinary settings, offering a safe solution to the often cumbersome task of thawing meat. Orelind’s thoughtful inclusion of additional features and dedication to innovation made SONA a standout solution and clear first place winner, they concluded.

Second and Third Place Winners
William Harrison Huth will take home the second-place prize of $2,500 for Ease, a sophisticated light therapy lamp that helps people treat Seasonal Affective Disorder without compromising aesthetic design. Unlike traditional therapy lights that look clinical and plain, Ease seamlessly fits into designed home spaces disguised as an elegant lamp and is “Designed for you, not just your disorder,” as Huth puts it. Fully wireless, the halo light can be removed from its magnetic base, allowing the user to take their therapy session anywhere and charge the light in plain sight when done.

Four products earned third place and $1,500 each. Wobble, by Carl Sabroff, a senior at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, is a wobbling indoor plant pot with a dual purpose: its fidget-toy-esque design encourages interaction that builds plant resilience and helps the owner connect with their plant, something that has been shown to benefit mental health. The rounded plant pot is made from 100% concrete, a sustainable and low-cost material.

The Mode, from Alexander Mossdorf, a senior at Carleton University, is an air-quality appliance with both air filtration and vacuuming capabilities. The Mode’s dual-intake system answers a two-pronged problem of at-home workshops: they tend to have poor air filtration, posing a danger to human health, yet the products needed to maintain safe air quality are costly and take up space. The two-in-one appliance promotes a cleaner, safer environment while cutting down on costs.

Rain Recycle, by Luke Kauranen, a junior at Western Michigan University, is a user-friendly rainwater collecting system that promotes sustainable water use, specifically in dwellings that lack roof or gutter access. The contraption stands at a mere 24 inches and is fitted with a collapsable umbrella-like funnel that captures and diverts rainwater into the tank below. Rain Recycle is a cost-effective, low-maintenance and attractive alternative to existing rain recycling products.

Swishy, from Julia Cutajar, a University of Notre Dame senior, is a whale-shaped toothbrushing companion that engages kids in proper toothbrushing. The kid-friendly design features a set of “whale” teeth that light up in quadrants to show kids which teeth they should be brushing as they follow along with the two-minute-long sequence. The whale’s blowhole doubles as a toothbrush holder and triggers the whale’s mouth to open and close when the toothbrush is removed and replaced.

Six Honorable Mentions Awarded
Six products merited an honorable mention. Their designers will receive $250 each:

  • Kate Baring and Terra Sullivan, juniors at Western Washington University, for CHOW, a dog treat maker.
  • Maximilian Murg, senior at the University of Applied Sciences – FH Joanneum, for NORY – gender inclusive sex toy
  • Davi Patterson, senior at Iowa State University, for Wink Wall, a decorative wall organizer.
  • Drew Janszen, senior at Purdue University, for Toasti 100, a toaster with improved safety and UX features.
  • Dillon Narcisse, a graduate student at the University of Houston, for Revera Hairwashing System, a hairwashing tool for people with limited mobility.
  • Wyatt Guthrie, senior at the Cleveland Institute of Art, for eLeaf, a smart plant monitor.

Judges Include Four Previous Design Competition Winners
This year’s winners were selected by an esteemed panel of 18 judges, including four past Student Design Competition winners who have since had successful industrial design careers. Judith Anderson, industrial design professor, Massachusetts College Of Art and Design; 2015 winner Evan Cincotta, industrial designer, Clixo, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Chris Cunningham, Cunningham Design, Chicago; Michael Ditullo, independent designer, Portland, Ore.; Radu Ghiorghie, vice president of product design, iDesign, Akron, Ohio; 1995 winner Robert Giacolo, new product development program manager, Transcendia, Naperville, Ill.; Jacob Greider, industrial designer, Honey-Can-Do, Berkeley, Ill.; Carly Hagins, assistant professor of product design, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Michael Kahwaji, professional specialist of design practice, Richmond Institute of Design and Innovation at Western Michigan University;  Mark Krasne, product design and development, Select Brands, Lenexa, Kan.; and Carter McGuyer, principal and founder, Carter McGuyer Design Group, Inc., Florence, Ala..

Also 2018 winner Anastasia Miller, founder, Small Moves Studio, Brooklyn, N.Y.; 1996 winner Jennifer Nemec, principal and founder, Ideation Studio Inc., Chicago; David Richter-O’Connell, associate professor, Industrial Design, University of Wisconsin – Stout Menomonie; James Rudolph, co-founder and program manager, Rudolph Design Studio, St. Joseph, Mich.; Michael Seskauskas, visiting instructor of industrial design, University of Illinois at Chicago; Rusty Snell, design director, mDesign, Cleveland, Ohio; and Kimberlee Wilkens director, BDes in Industrial Design, and assistant professor, Industrial Design, University of Illinois at Chicago.

The Inspired Home Show, IHA’s global home + housewares marketplace, will be held March 17-19 at Chicago’s McCormick Place Complex. For more information about the 2024 Show and to register for a Show badge, please visit To search for new products that will be at the Show, visit Connect 365, the Show’s online directory.