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Engineering for People Design Challenge

19 October 2018

Engineers Without Borders UK has officially launched the 2018-19 Engineering for People Design Challenge. The competition, which takes place at more than 30 Universities in the UK and Ireland, involves more than 6500 engineering undergraduates and helps them develop their skills in regards to how engineering can address real world problems and how to communicate in an engaging way.

Katie Cresswell-Maynard, Chief Executive of Engineers Without Borders UK says: "With the return of students to their universities we are launching the latest competition focused on creating a context for engineering students to work within, so that the engineers of the future become skilled at identifying problems as well as solving them. It gives them the opportunity to learn and practice the ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of engineering design."

The competition is unique in that it is embedded in the curriculum of the participating universities. Engineers Without Borders UK, along with its partner Prakti, develop a set of materials centred on a resource constrained environment - building a story about a community that is impeded in its progress by challenges around water, sanitation, transport, digital infrastructure, waste management etc. This set of materials (hosted online at www.engineering-for-people.com) creates a launch pad for the students to dig deeper and identify a problem for which they can create an engineering intervention.

"What’s crucial to note” says Katie “is that despite the fact that the environment we ask the students to focus on has resource challenges and lacks basic infrastructure, we aren’t asking them to only think about addressing the basics of poverty alleviation. We ask the students to think beyond that and to take an aspirational mind set into the challenge. For example, the 2018-19 challenge is focused on the rural community of Tamil Nadu in India. The challenge is to go beyond addressing basic needs and create solutions that make rural living in this part of India as attractive as urban living."

The Engineering for People Design Challenge is taken on by the universities in different ways. Some universities immerse themselves in it and tackle the challenge over the course of a couple of weeks while others run a module for one or two terms. At the end of the module each university chooses five teams to submit an online report on their project (the portal opens on 30th January and closes on 30th April). These reports are then whittled down to the top 36 who are then invited to the Grand Finals, held annually in June. At the Grand Finals the teams are further reduced until the top 6 get the chance to pitch their idea to a huge audience of around 200 people including the judges and fellow participants.

"An important point is that it’s not too late for universities to get involved in this year’s competition” says Katie. “We provide support for academic staff and can even arrange for them to work with academics from other universities to implement the challenge. Plus, we can visit the students and provide a lecture or a workshop to really bring the competition to life."

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