We recently celebrated students’ innovative solutions at the Grand Finals of the Engineering for People Design Challenge. Since the programme launched in 2011, we have been focusing the attention of undergraduates to their responsibility to address global issues. This year we’ve seen 6,500 first and second year students from 30 universities across the UK and Ireland participate in Engineers Without Borders UK’s annual competition.

The design brief focused on communities within Tamil Nadu, India. Students were challenged to rethink rural life and propose interventions that underpin aspirational lifestyles and address the impacts of poor water and sanitation provision, a lack of waste management, limited transport and digital infrastructure and unreliable energy provision.

Our 37 finalists were invited to our Grand Finals to present their solutions to a panel of 18 expert judges from our community, including representatives from Prakti, our partner based in Tamil Nadu. One of our fantastic volunteer judges, Sylvia Laws from Publitek, reflects on her experiences judging finalists at the Grand Finals on the 14th June 2019.

Being a judge for the Engineering for People Design Challenge

When I was asked to be a judge at this year’s Engineering for People Design Challenge final I was both excited and proud at the prospect of being involved in something so worthwhile.

The pre-work before the day was pretty substantial, with lots of information to work through. But, I have to say it was fantastically organised and the advice that the expert reviewers gave as they graded the work according to several different categories within the Engineers Without Borders UK marking criteria was invaluable. Perhaps the best thing about the advice they gave was that it put the solutions provided by the teams into proper context. There were some great engineering ideas put forward which could, potentially, have turned my head had it not been for the wise counsel of the reviewers who perhaps pointed out cost challenges to implementing the solution in Tamil Nadu or cultural challenges which had not been fully taken into consideration. The guidance I received from the reviewers, I believe, made me make the right choices.

The day itself was wonderful, I was inspired from the moment I walked in the door and saw hundreds of students milling about in a state of excitement plus a video team capturing interviews and a photographer snapping away – there was an incredible buzz. Inspiration and excitement were very much the themes of the day as I met up with my fellow judges and we began the task of assessing the six solutions we had been allocated. I felt so lucky in the fact that my fellow judges had experience of Tamil Nadu and therefore were able to give insight into the practicality of the solutions being put forward. I was so pleased that students from the groups we saw won both The People’s prize and the Grand prize. I felt so proud of them and for them!

The whole experience has made me feel more connected with Engineers Without Borders UK and indeed with the engineering community as a whole and I sincerely hope to be asked to participate again next year.

Written by Sylvia Laws, Chief Operating Officer, Publitek, June 2019.

Thank you

Collaboration is a fundamental part of this programme to be able to reach 6,500 students this year. Thank you to the students, academics, Prakti, our sponsors and the professionals who volunteered their time to support the programme.

Thank you for being a part of our movement for change and helping to make initiatives like the Engineering for People Design Challenge possible. Through initiatives like this, we are creating a generation entering the workplace ready to tackle our global challenges.

Find out more information about the Engineering for People Design Challenge.