A more ergonomic walker, a better ironing board, and an ambitious plan to transform coal ash ponds into public attractions were several of the student projects that won national and international awards this spring in Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture and Urban StudiesSchool of Architecture + Design.

Creating public assets from waste landscapes

Lauren Delbridge, a senior landscape architecture major from Wilkesboro, North Carolina, was named a 2017 National Olmsted Scholar – winning the top undergraduate prize and $15,000 from the Landscape Architecture Foundation for her proposal to remediate coal ash ponds into public ecological and educational resources. The Olmsted Scholars Program is the premier national award program for landscape architecture students, honoring students who are advancing sustainable design and fostering human and societal benefits.

Delbridge, who starts a job as a landscape architecture designer in June at LandDesign in Charlotte, North Carolina, plans to use her prize money to visit transformed wastescapes around the world as an inspiration for addressing them in her future research and work.

Her project also won the Landscape Architecture Program’s Stanley Abbott Award for the top thesis from an alumni and faculty jury panel. Delbridge became interested in wastescapes during a studio with visiting Assistant Professor Michael Ezban at the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center in which students explored landfill redesign. 

Amy Groome

Amy Groome
Senior Amy Groome took the top award in a prestigious national interior design competition.

National interior design award

Interior design major Amy Groome won the top national prize at the Steelcase NEXT Student Design Competition, beating out more than 800 students from 65 colleges.

Groome, a senior from Oakton, Virginia, won $2,500 and a $2,500 contribution to Virginia Tech's Interior Design Program. She presented her plans for a Los Angeles architecture and design firm to a panel of industry leaders in the final challenge at Steelcase’s Michigan headquarters in February. 

UPPO, the upright walker.

UPPO walker
UPPO, a more ergonomic, upright walker invented by five industrial design students won national and international awards.

Walking Tall

After observing that residents in a local retirement community were prone to stooped posture, falling, and social isolation because of their walkers, five industrial design students came up with a solution. With UPPO, they invented an ergonomic, upright walker – and also won two prestigious international awards.

The device garnered an A’Design Silver award, placing it in the top 5 percent of worldwide submissions, and took third place in the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, surpassing Stanford, Cornell, and University of California, Berkeley, to place behind MIT and Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology. The team won a $2,000 cash prize, $1,000 to make a prototype, paid travel to the competition, and professional advice on launching their product.


Team UPPO celebrating their win at the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge. From left to right: Genesis Solano, Emma Lee, Lane Hering, and Charlene Lertlumprasert.

Juniors Lane Hering, of Raleigh, North Carolina; Emma Lee, of Durban, South Africa; Charlene Lertlumprasert, of Burke, Virginia; Genesis Solano, of Arlington, Virginia; and Gerrold Walker, of Virginia Beach, Virginia, designed UPPO as a class project in their Senior Living Studio. The course, now in its fifth year, focuses on design solutions for aging populations. The studio is sponsored by SFCS Architects and Autodesk and co-led by Architecture + Design Associate Professors Bill Green and Brook Kennedy, and Assistant Professor Nathan King.

Industrial design student Nicole Norris and her winning product, Wrinklerack.

Nicole Norris and Wrinklerack
Industrial design major Nicole Norris and Wrinklerack, which claimed second place in the International Housewares Association Design Competition.

Inspiration born from frustration

Exasperated by the current ironing board experience, senior Nicole Norris invented Wrinklerack, which claimed second prize and $2,000 in the International Housewares Association Design Competition. The industrial design major from Aldie, Virginia, created a solution that combines form and function, with a mirror that opens to reveal an ironing board, clothes rack, shoe rack, hooks, storage, and a built-in power outlet, all conveniently wall-mounted and height-adjustable.

Norris is completing a spring internship at Fisher-Price on the Little People team and will return to Virginia Tech to defend her thesis in the fall.

Virginia Tech’s programs in the School of Architecture + Design and the College of Architecture and Urban Studies are consistently ranked among the top in the nation. Other student finalists are still awaiting responses in several national and international competitions.

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