Historically, public water fountains provided a gathering place in the public square, often provided access to drinking water and served as a community memorial or as public art. Most of those that remain no longer provide drinking water.

They are replaced by today’s utilitarian drinking water fountains found throughout schools and other public spaces and that often have little artistic merit or community value. And people often do not trust the quality of water from them.

Improving access to water in public spaces has multiple benefits, such as reducing waste and improving health by promoting consumption of water over other choices.

Michigan State University and the Midland Research Institute for Value Chain Creation propose The Fountain Challenge – Hydration Innovation by Design. Undergraduate and graduate Michigan State University students are challenged to imagine and design the drinking water fountain of the future.  All concept designs will be reviewed by judges. The top finisher in each of the three categories will receive a cash award at the end of Phase I. Then a potential maximum of 12 team designs – up to four from each of the three categories – will be chosen to move on to Phase II. An overall winning design will be awarded the top cash prize at the end of Phase II.  Cash awards will also be presented to the 2nd place and 3rd place overall finishers.

The aim is for students to create interdisciplinary teams to stimulate creativity. The competition will link the student teams with professionals in art and design, engineering, material science, sustainability sciences, architecture and landscape architecture and business to develop innovative designs for three types of public drinking water fountains.