Engineers Without Borders UK, part of an international movement putting global responsibility at the heart of engineering, has launched the 2020 cycle of the award-winning Engineering for People Design Challenge in partnership with Engineers Without Borders South Africa and Engineers Without Borders USA. 

The unique competition engages first and second-year university students to consider the social, economic and environmental impact of their engineering by inviting them to propose a solution that could be applied to a real-life problem affecting people on a global scale.

Now in its ninth year, the Challenge has reached over 34,500 undergraduate students to date. Already embedded in the undergraduate curriculum at dozens of UK universities, the 2020 instalment has been extended to more than 7,000 students over three continents – with time remaining for more students to get involved.

The 2020 Challenge focuses on Makers Valley, a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. As a result of rapid population growth and economic inequality, the area is facing housing shortages, inconsistent access to electricity and water and problems with waste collection. 

To overcome these challenges, the residents of Makers Valley have collectively begun working toward urban renewal through creative solutions, empowerment, and collaboration. Students are now invited to join them by designing a potential solution that addresses one of the key issues and is an appropriate fit for the economic, environmental and social context of the community. 

Academics from each institution will review their students’ submissions with the top five from each university going forward to be judged by industry volunteers. The best team from each participating university will then be invited to present their solutions at the Grand Finals in London in a bid to win the Grand Prize of a £2,000 educational bursary. The runner-up and the People’s Prize winners will also receive £500 each to share between them.

Emma Crichton, Head of Engineering at Engineers Without Borders UK, said: “Our real-life design project provides a platform for students to truly understand how to develop engineering skills with a globally responsible mindset and place people at the heart of their designs. We are thrilled that our award-winning Engineering for People Design Challenge is reaching a wider audience with students participating from South Africa, UK, Ireland, UAE and the USA. We have already visited half of the currently participating universities, meeting thousands of students around the world. The perspective they bring is invaluable to understanding how we need to continue to improve engineering education to serve the needs of all people and our planet.

“We look forward to welcoming even more students onto the Challenge and sharing their passion for ensuring that every person globally enjoys the same right to dignified living conditions.”

To find out how to get involved with Engineering for People Design Challenge 2020, visit