PNCA Press Center

PNCA Announces Clean Beaches Design Challenge

Release date: 11/06/12

November 6, 2012

Lisa Radon, Communications Specialist 971-255-5528

Becca Biggs, Director of Communications 971-255-5511

PNCA Announces Clean Beaches Design Challenge
MFA in Collaborative Design Partners with SOLVE for Tsunami Clean-up Challenge

PORTLAND, 0R – NOVEMBER 6, 2012 – The Master of Fine Arts in Collaborative Design at Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) in partnership with SOLVE is issuing the Clean Beaches Design Challenge, inviting teams of college students to design innovative solutions to clean up tsunami and other marine debris on Oregon beaches.

The impetus for the challenge came from the graduate students in Assistant Professor, Don Harker’s Cultural Entrepreneurship Class in the MFA in Collaborative Design program. Students had proposed several local issues to be addressed by designers and chose the tsunami beach cleanup as number one. Then they reached out to SOLVE, a non-profit organization with a track record of bringing volunteers together to restore and maintain Oregon’s natural spaces with an emphasis on beach and river cleanup.

The tragic 2011 Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated Japan had, and continues to have, a wide impact. The west coast of North America from California to Alaska has begun receiving an estimated 1.5 million pounds of tsunami debris which is expected to continue to wash ashore for the next five years.  This is in addition to the 100 million tons swirling in the North Pacific Gyre. Oregon is especially vulnerable due to the ocean currents coming across the Pacific that turn south at the Oregon/Washington border. The debris ranges in size from micro plastics to floating docks. Problems related to the debris include financial, related to beach cleanup and the impact on the local tourist economy; ecological, including wildlife impacts and invasive species; public health, related to chemical contamination of micro plastics; public policy, related to tsunami preparedness and land use; and logistical, related to the sheer scale of the problem. 

“The scope of the debris cleanup from the tsunami on Oregon’s shoreline presents an enormous challenge. But for more than 40 years SOLVE has both facilitated and witnessed what we can do when we come together to address environmental challenges such as this,” says John Tortorici, Executive Director of SOLVE. “That’s why, when Don Harker approached us about the Clean Beaches Design Challenge, we recognized its value at once.”

Teams will submit their solutions to the Collaborative Design department’s CodePDX website ( The deadline for entries is midnight, January 31, 2013. The top three solutions will be awarded cash prizes: $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second, and $1,000 for third. In addition, any student on the top three winning teams who applies and is accepted into PNCA’s MFA in Collaborative Design program will be offered a $2,000 scholarship.

The Clean Beaches Design Challenge is a competition for college student teams interested in tackling a complex problem with scientific, political, and social dimensions. The competition is designed to promote the practical, integrative, and exciting aspects of science, technology, engineering, art, policy, education, organization, politics, psychology, and community when applied to the real world environmental problems facing our society. Research, creativity, innovation, collaboration, and systems thinking are integral ingredients and key to the successful design for complex problem interventions. Teams will learn about the science of recycling and repurposing debris and will better understand the work of professionals in that field.

The final judging event on March 9, 2013, will allow selected teams to present their designs, network with other teams, and receive feedback and ideas from the judges.

“This is just the kind of complex problem that demands fresh, collaborative, innovative thinking that we spend every day training our students to address,” says Peter Schoonmaker, chair of the MFA in Collaborative Design. “We see this Clean Beaches Design Challenge as an opportunity to expand the dialogue around problems such as this to include voices of young, dedicated, college students from all over.”

For complete information about the Challenge including guidelines for submission and judging criteria, please see the Collaborative Design student-driven CodePDX: or download the Project Brief (PDF)

PNCA’s MFA in Collaborative Design fosters creative practices that require collaborative, experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. Using design thinking and methodologies, students cultivate an entrepreneurial and critical approach to meaningfully address the emerging challenges of the 21st century. For more information:

The program is currently accepting applications for Fall 2013. Application (PDF):

As Oregon’s flagship college of art and design since 1909, Pacific Northwest College of Art has helped shape Oregon’s visual arts landscape for more than a century. PNCA students study with award-winning faculty in small classes. In the last seven years, PNCA has doubled both the student body and full-time faculty, quadrupled its endowment, and added innovative undergraduate and graduate programs. PNCA is now embarking on its boldest venture yet by establishing the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Center for Art and Design as an anchor for the College’s vision of a new campus home on Portland’s North Park Blocks. Focusing on the transformative power of creativity, the capital campaign, Creativity Works Here, was launched in June 2012 with a lead gift from The Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation of $5 million. PNCA’s new home will be a bustling hub for creativity and entrepreneurship, reflecting the influential role of art and design in our 21st century economy – both in Portland and beyond. For more information, visit

SOLVE is a statewide non-profit organization that brings people together to improve the environment and build a legacy of stewardship. Over four decades, the organization has grown from a small, grassroots group to a national model for volunteer environmental action. Today, SOLVE mobilizes and trains tens of thousands of volunteers across Oregon to our clean up beaches and rivers, and restore watersheds. Visit for more information.

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