Lifelong New Richmond resident Andrea Meisner recently won second prize in the 26th annual International Housewares Association Student Design Competition. Meisner designed her product concept, the Pudge Hot Sandwich Maker for Outdoor Cooking, as a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

"I was really happy, to say the least, when I found out I got second place. The whole thing has been an unreal experience, to be honest. It is a complete dream come true as an industrial designer to win this," Meisner said. "I was actually with a bunch of friends in Atlanta when I got the call at 8 at night, so we went out and had a great time that night to celebrate. It was a fun time. I got to get this great news on this great amazing trip I was going on at the time."

The competition challenged college students to redesign a current housewares product to meet the needs of the future or to create a concept for a new product. Winning projects are selected for their innovation, understanding of production and marketing principles and quality of entry materials. As part of her second place prize, Meisner received $1,750 and an all-expense-paid trip to the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, which will take place March 2-5, where she will make contacts that may lead to a job when she graduates or a licensing contract for her design.

"Placing second in this competition definitely opens a lot of doors for me, especially since I'm going to be presenting my concept at the International Housewares Convention in Chicago. There will be over 60,000 attendees and 2,200 exhibiting companies from more than 145 countries that go there to displace their products and look around," Meisner said. "It is a huge opportunity for me to network and potentially get a job after college."

A total of 280 from 45 schools in the U.S. and from 16 countries from across the globe took part in the competition.

"My project was, using the term that my family uses, to make a 'pudgy pie' maker that was safer for the user, especially if the user had kids. Basically, it gives you a more friendly way of including the whole family in the camping cooking experience," Meisner said. "The competition is one of the largest houseware competitions in the United States. As part of one of my industrial design classes, we framed our senior projects around the competition. So I decided to go with a campy product rather than a regular kitchen cookware system."

Pudge is an innovative cookware set that integrates compact design, versatility, injury preventative features and user-friendly features to make it safer for families to cook traditional hot sandwiches (pudgie pies) and roast marshmallows over a campfire.

"My family and I have been camping together for years and it has been a really big part of my childhood. And I wanted to do a project that I would look forward to doing for three months, so I picked camping as a theme for my project based on a hobby I do with my family," Meisner said. "The Pudgy Pie Iron hasn't been reinvented or touched since 1960, so I wanted to make an old technology new and see where I could go with that."

As part of her project, Meisner made several ergonomic changes to the traditional Pudgy Pie iron, including having the iron open from the side, adding a timer to the handle to help prevent burning and the ability to switch out the pie iron with a marshmallow roaster to condense down the space you need for tools on your trip.

"All of that goes into a bag that is lined with aluminum, so you can drop the hot irons directly into the bag instead of leaving them around the campsite where kids can round around and get burnt," Meisner said. "Then, the middle section of the bag also unzips into a clean prep station so you don't have to put your ingredients on the moldy tables that you find at a lot of campsites."

Updating the Pudgy Pie Iron was a no-brainer for Meisner, considering how big of an impact the original iron had on her childhood.

"My dad and I went camping and I made the perfect Pudgy Pie. I was so proud of this thing and it was the perfect apple pie, just golden and beautiful. My dad was scraping this dead animal that we had hit on the way up off of our vehicle, and he saw how perfect my Pudgy Pie was and touched it, which just ruined the Pudgy Pie," Meisner said. "I knew I would never be able to make such a perfect Pudgy Pie again in my life. So that was a huge reason for me to make this iron, so I could recreate my perfect Pudgy Pie that my dad completely destroyed."