Last Friday we celebrated the work of some amazing students at the Engineering for People Design Challenge Grand Finals at the IET in London. The competition engages university students in the importance of ethical, culturally sensitive and appropriate engineering.

This year’s brief focused on Tamil Nadu in India, where the vast majority of people live in rural areas and the population is steadily increasing. Students were challenged to rethink rural life and address the impacts of poor water and sanitation, a lack of waste management, limited transport and digital infrastructure, and unreliable energy provision.

The winning team

The winning team designed a plan to empower women by designing a community hub, where women could spend time and learn new skills in a safe environment. The team of second year civil engineering students from Leeds Beckett University made sure that building materials for the hub, including bamboo and reinforced clay bricks, were affordable and easy to source locally. The team tested them in practice during the design phase to ensure their suitability.

Runners up

Second place went to a hygienic and affordable sanitary towel, SafeSpot. The team of product design students from Nottingham Trent University made sure that their discreet device was affordable and easy to sterilise, so that girls would not have to miss school during their periods because of the cultural and societal stigma attached to menstruation.

People’s prize

All attendees at the Grand Finals were invited to nominate their favourite innovation for a people’s prize. The award went to a team from Heriot-Watt University for ecoPic – an improved version of the traditional cooking stove – designed to eliminate smoke to reduce pollution.

New horizons

Over 6,500 first- and second-year students from universities across the UK and Ireland took part in this year’s Engineering for People Design Challenge. The top 37 shortlisted teams were invited to present their ideas to a panel of expert judges in a bid to win a £2,000 educational bursary.

The challenge will soon reach wider international audiences. For the 2019/2020 competition we’re joining forces with the Engineers Without Borders team in South Africa to set a brief that will invite students to use their engineering skills to benefit an urban community in Johannesburg. Engineers Without Borders USA will also pilot the competition, enabling US students to participate for the first time.

Thank you

As well as all the competitors, we would also like to thank the sponsors, expert judges and academics for their support. This year more than 200 people from over 30 countries volunteered to review students’ proposals during the selection process.

Subscribe to hear more about the 2019/2020 Engineering for People Challenge and ways to get involved.