Celebrating its 14th year, the Robert Bruce Thompson Annual Student Light Fixture Design Competition provides a creative outlet for students to explore luminaire design in the context of a hypothetical project. The program is administered by the Robert Bruce Thompson Charitable Trust, which was established by Thompson’s estate when he died in 1999. Thompson was a 25-year veteran of the lighting industry whose career spanned both the design and manufacturing sides of the lighting industry.

Each year, the competition puts forth a new design problem, developed by the Trustees‑Patricia Glasow, Principal, Auerbach Glasow French; Naomi Miller, Senior Lighting Engineer, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and Randy Borden, President, Borden Lighting. This year, students were asked to design a pendant fixture for an imaginary client who was “…opening a new wine bar and restaurant in a major west coast city.” The program required that the luminaire be decorative and functional, and employ an energy-efficient light source. In designing their signature fixture, students had to determine the style of the restaurant and take into consideration how both people and food would appear under electric and natural lighting conditions.

The 2015 judging panel was made up of designers and manufacturers and included: Cathy Barrett, Senior Project Designer, Gensler; Doug Herst, Founder and Executive Chairman of Lumenetix; Gilbert Lang Mathews, founder and CEO of Lucifer Lighting Company; E. Sara McBarnette, Senior Associate, Auerbach Glasow French; and Claudio Ramos, Principal, Banks Ramos Architectural Lighting Design.


Chelsea Brukardt's first place winning design called "Surrealist."
Chelsea Brukardt's first place winning design called "Surrealist."

A total of seven awards were given this year from a pool of more than 92 entries. First place and a cash prize of $5,000 went to Chelsea Brukardt, an interior design student at the Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Fla., for her luminaire titled “Surrealist.” The pendant is composed of five different free-form shapes ranging in size from 1-foot to 2-feet. LEDs are built into the forms, which are fabricated from a renewable source of plant derived bioplastic. The jury noted that “the design is sculptural, yet functional, fashion forward and well developed.”

Second place and a cash prize of $2,500 went to Karen Cottle an interior design/sales student at Weber State University in West Point, Utah, for her pendant luminaire called “Summer Rain.” This fixture design mimics the shape of a tree branch with drop of water running down its leaves. Fiber optic strands lit with an LED illuminator create the droplets of light. The jury commented that the luminaire “…would create a beautiful ambiance and sparkle in the space.”

Karen Cottle's 2nd place winning entry titled "Summer Rain."
Karen Cottle's 2nd place winning entry titled "Summer Rain."


Lila Wengler, an interior design student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, received third place and a cash prize of $1,000 for her design titled “Rowscape.” Inspired by vineyard landscapes, the luminaire features lines of light formed by a series of closely spaced LED light panels. The jury “liked the elegant use of blades and the richly textured illumination.”

Lila Wengler's 3rd place winning design called "Rowscape."
Lila Wengler's 3rd place winning design called "Rowscape."


Two Citations for Innovative Concept, each carrying a cash prize of $500 were also awarded. One went to Victoria Davis an interior design student at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla., for her pendant called “Horizon.” A second award was given to Rose Sigona, an interior design student at Ringling College of Art + Design in Sarasota, Fla., for her fixture called “Arachnocampa Luminosa.”

Victoria Davis' luminaire design titled "Horizon."
Victoria Davis' luminaire design titled "Horizon."
Rose Signoa's competition entry called "Arachnocampa Luminosa."
Rose Signoa's competition entry called "Arachnocampa Luminosa."


Christian Mauzy, an industrial design student at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., received the Citation for Technical Proof of Concept for his luminaire design titled “The Wave.” This was the first time such a citation was given, and created specifically for this entry because of the excellent documentation and mock-up created as part of the overall entry. 

Christian Mauzy's luminaire proposal called "The Wave."
Christian Mauzy's luminaire proposal called "The Wave."


The jury also presented a Citation for Presentation to Leah Gray, and interior design student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, for her luminaire entry called “A Splash of Light.”

Leah Gray's fixture proposal titled "A Splash of Light."
Leah Gray's fixture proposal titled "A Splash of Light."


The RBT Competition is open to all full-time students enrolled in an accredited academic degree program in the United States, focused on architectural engineering, architecture, lighting design, interior design, theatre, product design, and industrial design. 

The 2016 competition will launch in mid-November 2015, and the brief will ask students to design a decorative vanity fixture for the restroom of a high-end sushi restaurant. Applications are due April 1, 2016. Interested entrants are asked to visit the competition website for full details.