NC Botanical Garden’s ‘WonderSphere’ wins Core77 Design for Social Impact Award

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NC Botanical Garden’s ‘WonderSphere’ wins Core77 Design for Social Impact Award


(Chapel Hill, N.C. – June 20, 2016) – The North Carolina Botanical Garden’s (NCBG) WonderSphere, a sealed mobile chamber that enables hospitalized, immune-compromised children to touch nature without danger of infection, has won a Core77 Design for Social Impact Award. This annual award is given by the design website to projects specifically created to benefit social, humanitarian, community or environmental causes.


Program Manager Katie Stoudemire developed the WonderSphere for use in the NCBG’s Wonder Connection program. The mission of the donor-funded program, which serves pediatric patients at UNC Hospitals, is to empower patients with the wonders of nature and science through multi-sensory learning experiences that promote joy and well-being.


After bringing some natural materials to non-compromised patients within the UNC Children’s Hospital, Stoudemire quickly realized the true benefits of environmental education.


“I think there’s a power in interacting with natural objects,” Stoudemire said. “There’s magic in sprouting a seed. For kids to be able to be a part of that, there’s an implication of hope there.”


Stoudemire wanted immune-compromised children to be able to share in these experiences, so she challenged herself to create a product with an airtight seal that would protect them from plant bacteria, viruses and fungi. Working with The Bressler Group, a product design and engineering firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she also made sure the product was lightweight, easy to disinfect and small enough to fit onto a hospital bed tray.


Today, pediatric patients can use the WonderSphere to explore Venus flytraps, dissect flowers and make flower arrangements. One hundred percent of the children who have used the invention not only report enthusiasm for science, but feelings of happiness and pride.


Research shows that experiences with nature boost positive emotions — and that’s what informs and drives the work of Wonder Connection. Stoudemire hopes this new invention will not only benefit pediatric patients, but also children in hospital waiting rooms and public schools, as well as adults in nursing care facilities.


“This project blew us away,” Core77 judges said. “It was unexpected and so authentic, with a brilliant idea to a problem we had not seen tackled before. We also loved that it came from someone without a professional design background, but exhibited the heart, grit and creativity of the best design projects.”


Core77 serves a devoted global audience of industrial designers ranging from students through seasoned professionals. It publishes articles, discussion forums and an extensive event calendar; and hosts portfolios, job listings, a database of design firms, schools, vendors and services. It also provides a gathering point for designers and design enthusiasts by producing competitions, lecture series, parties and exhibits.



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About the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, is a global higher education leader known for innovative teaching, research and public service. A member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, Carolina regularly ranks as the best value for academic quality in U.S. public higher education. Now in its third century, the University offers 77 bachelor’s, 113 master’s, 68 doctorate and seven professional degree programs through 14 schools and the College of Arts and Sciences. Every day, faculty – including two Nobel laureates – staff and students shape their teaching, research and public service to meet North Carolina’s most pressing needs in every region and all 100 counties. Carolina’s more than 308,000 alumni live in all 50 states and 150 countries. More than 167,000 live in North Carolina.


The North Carolina Botanical Gardens

The NCBG, part of the University of North Carolina, is a 1,000-acre assemblage of display gardens and natural areas. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016, the garden is nationally known as a center for the study, display, interpretation and conservation of plants. Through its educational, recreational, therapeutic horticulture and research programs, it extends opportunities for connection with nature to people of all abilities and backgrounds. The garden is open seven days a week and admission is free. Information at


UNC-Chapel Hill Communications and Public Affairs contact: MC VanGraafeiland, (919) 962-7090,