During a pivotal moment in an undergraduate student’s career, the Engineering for People Design Challenge encourages individuals to broaden their awareness of the social, environmental and economic implications of their engineering solutions. Since 2011, the Design Challenge has been delivered in Cameroon, South Africa, the UK and Ireland and the USA to over 60,000 students.

Each year, we work with a programme partner to create a real-world design brief based on real-world problems that people in their country are facing. These challenges are framed around the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s programme partner is the Centre for Appropriate Technology, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled not-for-profit organisation which “exists to support people in regional and remote Australia in the choices they make in order to maintain their relationship with Country”.

From the 8,000 students who participated in this year’s Design Challenge across the UK and Ireland, the top 36 teams were invited to join us for the Grand Finals where they pitched their ideas to this year’s judges. This process whittled the number of teams to six, who pitched to over 150 participants who attended the event, in addition to a panel of judges which included, chair of Engineers Without Borders UK and Chief Executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, Jon Prichard; Dawn Bonfield MBE and Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at King’s College London; and Akaraseth Puranasamriddhi, member-elect Trustee at Engineers Without Borders UK and researcher in Climate Risk & Sustainable Finance at the University of Cambridge and a Research Affiliate in Energy Access at University College London.

Delivered in partnership with:

Throughout the day we heard from CEO and Regional Manager of this year’s programme partner, Centre of Appropriate Technology, Peter Renehan and Andre Grant, respectively. The academics who attended alongside their student teams joined a workshop to explore next year’s design brief, developed in partnership with Govan Community Project, which supports the diverse communities in our local area and refugees and people seeking asylum all over Glasgow. We were also joined by Olivia Sweeney, a chemical engineer, Black and Green Ambassador, and featured engineer in the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This Is Engineering campaign, who provided a keynote on How to be an Ethical, Moral, Impactful, Just, Green, Sustainable, Principled, Inclusive, Responsible, Engineer (Everything I know about being an engineer and staying true to yourself).

In addition to awarding first and second prizes, the competition also included a public vote: the People’s Prize. This provides all top 36 teams with the opportunity to promote their idea across their networks. The People’s Prize gained nearly 4,000 votes. This year’s People’s Prize was awarded to students from University of the West of England for their design, Evaporative Cooling Barrel gaining 565 of the votes.

Second prize was awarded to University of Strathclyde for their design, Rammed Earth Housing, which are designed to be constructed with a reusable and prefabricated KIT that can be transported easily. The judges commented on the acknowledgement of transportability and opportunities for plastic reuse and how the team combined the availability of local labour and local resources effectively.


First prize went to University College Dublin, who impressed the judges with their concept, Tapatapment; a water filtration unit designed for water taps, created from bamboo shoots. The judges felt the team demonstrated a clear understanding of local needs and with regards to the environmental context, the inclusion of a water metre was a clever addition to help reduce consumption in the area. The use of natural and waste materials was also a novel idea that would reduce environmental impact.

We are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to the delivery of this year’s Engineering for People Design Challenge, which includes the educators who deliver this programme in universities, the volunteers who gave up their time during the Grand Finals event and the over 200 volunteers who reviewed the students’ submissions, the judges who provided insightful feedback and assessment, the speakers who inspired, and our partners, without whom this programme would not have the global impact it does.

Learn more about the Engineering for People Design Challenge.