Each year we run our Engineering for People Design Challenge, engaging university students up and down the country in problem based learning and the concept of globally responsible engineering. Last year, the winning team from Leeds Beckett university won with their innovative Women’s Community Centre design, made with rammed earth bricks and bamboo frames. The design not only considered the social needs of the community, but also the environmental impacts of the materials used.

Since the Grand Finals, the team’s design caught the eye of The Engineer magazine and as a result were invited to the Collaborate to Innovate awards which took place in London last week. The evening celebrated designs from diverse areas of engineering ranging from Aerospace, Defense and Security to Young Innovators. We took this opportunity to speak to our finalists and find out if the Engineering for People Design Challenge has had a lasting impact on their outlook.

Speaking first to Charlotte, it was clear she was still surprised by the success of the design. Although the team had a undeniably strong concept, she was extremely hesitant to take part, admitting she had no desire to present in front of large groups of people. But after deciding the odds of actually having to present in the final were so slim, Charlotte agreed. As we now know the team made it to the finals and Charlotte had to present in front of a whole auditorium of judges and participants. This taxing experience left her with a sense of real achievement, finding her confidence has improved dramatically, providing her with the ability to approach members of staff at her placement with less hesitation.

Lydia, another team member, mentioned the skills she gained during the challenge which she has also implemented at her placement. Specially, the teamwork element of the challenge which encouraged her to listen to ideas that she may have never initially considered. In addition to widening her outlook, she has also found the challenge provided an insight into the relationship between sustainability and engineering, which she hadn’t covered on her university course.

Patricia who worked specifically on the material aspect of the project, explained how her curiosity for engineering had developed from a young age, primarily evolving from an enthusiasm for fashion and architecture. She was particularly fascinated with bamboo and took the time to research how to best work with the material, and even made prototypes to assess its durability. She explained how she hopes to work with natural materials throughout her engineering practice.

Georgie explained how she found the challenge was a real insight into what real world engineering looks like. Stating how it has really inspired an interest in sustainable engineering practice and hopes to gain experience in an organisation that highlights the importance of responsible practice in the future.

One thing all of the team members agreed on was how they wouldn’t have been so successful without the help of their academic, Tom. His support from setting manageable deadlines, to guidance with their report writing skills was the backbone to this winning team.

We are extremely excited to see what these engineers achieve in the future! Although Leeds Beckett didn’t win on this occasion, the achievement of being entered into such a well-established competition speaks for itself.

Learn more about this years Engineering for People Design Challenge here!