World Cultural Council’s Jose Vasconcelos World Award of Education 2016 was awarded to Professor Kalevi Ekman, the founder of Design Factory concept, in Riga in Latvia on Friday, 14 October.
The prize recognizes Ekman’s international and productive humanistic approach to education as well as his visionary and inspiring ideas on the Design Factory concept as outstanding educational methodology. “The prize is an acknowledgement of Professor Ekman’s relentless efforts as a mentor and teacher and his passion for fostering learning, multidisciplinarity and cross-cultural cooperation” WCC states.
Design Factory as a platform is a place where pedagogical focus is on learning by demand, by creating an environment that encourages curiosity and the development of soft skills. “Even in the most competitive fields there are blind spots, where you can achieve something by doing things a little differently”, Ekman points out, referring to the education industry with thousands of years of history and tradition.
In his speech at the ceremony, Ekman highlighted the importance of passion-based learning philosophy that he has coined. “To be successful you need competence, but even more important is enthusiasm and passion.” The same attitude persists when Ekman reflects on the award. “You don’t have to be a superhero to leave a mark in the academic world”, he says.
Global network of 13 Design Factories
The award ceremony was a part of a two day festival, which also included the official launch of the Riga Technical University (RTU) Design Factory.
“Design Factory started here two years ago with the opening of a lab, and today I’m happy that we have opened additional workspaces that will create new opportunities for creative inventors, and support research and innovation in RTU”, said Professor Leonīds Ribickis, rector of Riga Technical University in the opening ceremony.
The new Riga Technical University Design Factory and Aalto Design Factory held a workshop together in Riga. Photo: Aalto University Design Factory
The Design Factory opening ceremony included a possibility to test and experience the products and prototypes that students have been creating so far. The room quickly filled with excited guests. Girts Ozolins was one of the students showcasing their project called Winmill – a robot to train icehockey goalkeepers. “Who else would let us do something as big as this if not the Design Factory?”
Eetu’s work and Aalto Design Factory have inspired a network of currently 12 other universities and research institutions to establish a Design Factory of their own. In addition Riga, two other Design Factories have officially opened within the past month alone: one at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia and the other at Pace University in New York.
While the award and openings of new Design Factories have created a well-deserved moment for celebrations, the work and the new academic year have already begun. Now is the start of the 20th anniversary year of Ekman’s Product Development Project course. In this year’s course there are altogether about 150 students, 16 projects, and 16 problem briefs given by 16 companies. PDP is as international as ever, with all 16 teams consisting of also a remote student team from an international university.
World Cultural Council
The World Cultural Council (WCC) is an international organization based in Mexico. Members of the Council are eminent global scientists and personalities and include numerous Nobel laureates. The objectives of the WCC are to promote scholarship, art and culture and to foster fraternity among people, nations and governments, based on mutual respect for the ideology, religion, race, and gender. The José Vasconcelos World Award of Education has been established as an acknowledgment of those who have the all-important labour of teaching the underlying basis of our present civilization. The prize is awarded every other year.