The Engineering for People Design Challenge is an award winning initiative delivered by Engineers Without Borders UK. The Challenge is embedded in undergraduate engineering courses and gives students the opportunity to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design.

Engineering plays a pivotal role in everyday life and underpins our response to the global challenges of the 21st century. For a sustainable future engineers everywhere need to apply a globally responsible mindset and invest their skills and talent in engineering that benefits us all.

The Engineering for People Design Challenge prepares students, the engineers of the future, to become globally responsible engineers. Through working on real world issues and putting people at the forefront of engineering design, students will demonstrate how they understand context, identify engineering issues, and justify their recommended design ideas. Delivered as part of the undergraduate curriculum, the initiative contributes to the Engineering Council requirements for students on accredited degrees to demonstrate understanding of the design process and have a broad awareness of the economic, legal, social, ethical and environmental context of engineering activity.

How it works

Each year Engineers Without Borders UK works with one of our partner organisations to produce a series of engineering challenges based on real world challenges faced by the community with which we work. These problems span engineering disciplines including water and sanitation, energy, the built environment, transport, waste management, Information Communications Technology and local industry. Students at participating universities then design a potential solution to one of the challenges presented in the design brief, with an emphasis on producing a design that is appropriate to the context in which it will be used, economically, socially and environmentally.

Participating institutions run the EnginHappy teameering for People Design Challenge as part of the engineering curriculum for first and second year undergraduates.  In this way the programmes becomes a mandatory part of the degree course.

Each year, the best teams from all participating universities are invited to the Grand Final where they showcase their ideas to their peers, industry representatives and a panel of expert judges. They compete to be crowned Engineering for People Design Challenge winners. Details of the 2018 Grand Finals will be released in the coming months.

The initiative was first launched in the UK in 2011 in partnership with EWB Australia. In 2016/17 the Engineering for People Design Challenge ran at 26 universities across the UK and Ireland involving over 4,600 students. Since 2011 the Engineering for People Design Challenge has improved the skills and competencies of over 23,000 undergraduates. To date, student design ideas have focused on communities in India, Nepal, Cambodia, Australia, Vietnam, Timor Leste, Cameroon and more. Students who have taken part in the Challenge have said that it helped them discover the human element of engineering; read about Tsanko’s story here.

Click here to view this year’s participating institutions and find out how to get your institution involved.


The Engineering Professors’ Council is delighted to support Engineers Without Borders UK. It offers lots of fantastic, practical ways for our students to use what they’ve learned and demonstrate the unique career paths that a degree in engineering opens up – solving real, practical problems that make transformational differences to people’s lives.

Johnny Rich, Chief Executive – Engineering Professors’ Council



The Engineering for People Design Challenge provides students with a taste of what it is like to be an engineer, requiring them to make links between the core engineering theory that they have studied and the context in which they will be working. The challenge provides real-life opportunities to design solutions that amongst other things, take account of environmental, social and cultural impacts.

Alasdair Coates, CEO – Engineering Council


The Engineering for People Design Challenge is one of 50 Nesta New Radicals 2016. New Radicals is a search led by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, and The Observer to find the top people, projects and organisations offering innovative ways to tackle social challenges and make Britain and the wider world better.

Do you want to support this initiative? Please get in touch with the team via [email protected]