Last Thursday, viewers from 22 different countries tuned in to celebrate the work of students from across the UK and Ireland, during the Engineering for People Design Challenge Grand Finals. During a pivotal moment in an undergraduate student’s career, the Design Challenge encourages individuals to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of their engineering solutions. Currently delivered in South Africa, UK, Ireland and the USA, last week was an opportunity to recognise the nearly 8,000 students from 32 different universities across the UK and Ireland and award the prize-winning solutions.

The event kicked off with a welcome address by our Chair and Chief executive of IChemE, Jon Prichard. This was followed by an inspiring keynote speech from Brittany Harris, co-founder and CEO of Qflow, a technology that helps companies in the construction industry to reduce waste by using only the resources they need, in the most efficient way possible. Brittany discussed how she tries to be a globally responsible engineer, covering her career to date and her three key takeaways that include; question everything, be conscious of the positive and negative consequences and hold on to your mission, saying;

“[…] don’t be afraid to question everything and don’t settle for you know, this is just how we’ve always done it, ask ‘why?’.”

After Brittany’s motivating talk, we heard directly from a representative of this year’s Challenge Partner, EcoSwell. Andres Bustamante, one of the four co-founders, provided a fantastic overview of how the organisation had developed over time, in addition to essential advice on how to make real lasting change for future generations.

Next, we learnt who the pitching judges had progressed to the top six. They were:

Imperial College London: ePOL (Electric Power Outlet Lamppost)
Nottingham Trent University: Caja Fria
UCL: Hybrid Empowering
University of Strathclyde: Project Pozo
University of the West of England: Implementation of Biodigesters and Oxidation Ponds
University of Sheffield: Terracotta Cone Cooling

We then spoke to a representative of each of these top six teams to hear their reflections on their experience. When asked what they will transfer into their future practice, one student said; “Taking a more holistic approach […] seeing how solutions are actually going to be implemented into society.” Another commented on the importance of the Design Challenge in the curriculum;

“What we learn in university is how to design something, not how it is going to affect people or the environment around it. They were key things we had to consider, that we had never considered before.”

After hearing from every team, we then found out who this year’s award winners were. They consisted of the People’s Prize, conducted via a public vote, and the Runners up and Grand Prize, awarded by a panel of judges. Announced first was the People’s Prize which included all 35 solutions that made it to the pitching round of the competition. This award went to Nottingham Trent University, who gained 644 out of the 3401 votes for their design Caja Fria, a terracotta cooling system. Next, we announced the Runner up. This went to the University of West of England, for their Implementation of Biodigesters and Oxidation Ponds in Lobitos and Piedritas design. The judges it was “A practical solution which certainly met the social needs of the community.”

Finally, we announced the Grand Prize winner. This award also went to Nottingham Trent University for their design Caja Fria. The judges felt, “The team have thought about the production process and the different groups who could manufacture it. Well thought through and reasoned.”

Congratulations to all the participants in this year’s Engineering for People Design Challenge. The reviewers, judges and staff alike were all impressed with the standard of innovation this year. We encourage all participants and volunteers to stay engaged by joining the movement to ensure we are putting global responsibility at the heart of engineering wherever you may be in your career journey.

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