Winners of Engineering for People Design Challenge 2020 announced by Engineers Without Borders UK

03 July 2020

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University College Dublin team take Design Challenge top prize, with De Montford University finishing runner-up & University of Sheffield students winning Peoples’ Choice Award.

Engineers Without Borders UK, part of an international movement aiming to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering, has announced the UK & Ireland winners of its Engineering for People Design Challenge 2020.

The 2020 Design Challenge focused 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.

Beating tough competition from a total of 28 university teams from across the UK & Ireland, University College Dublin impressed the judges and took home the top prize for their submission, Connectivi-Tree, which addressed the lack of internet access in Makers Valley.

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The Connectivi-Tree ensures installation of a mesh WiFi network system, with each router housed in an 'Connectivi-Tree', made by local artists and micro-enterprises. This ‘Tree’ would be made by the community, for the community – allowing people to take ownership of their space and regenerate the local area.

The winning team receive a Grand Prize of a £2,000 educational bursary.

Judge, Katie Cresswell-Maynard, CEO of Engineers Without Borders UK said: "The project speaks to the ethos of Maker's Valley by building on the existing strengths of a community of ‘makers’ and artists."


With their innovative design for a water gathering system, the team from De Montford University secured the runner-up spot. By harvesting rainwater for greywater use, the system would provide treatment and storage and enable tap water use to be reduced by 40 litres per day and savings of 25% on bills. Judges praised the team’s great depth of research and understanding of the roots of the water safety issue, not only in Maker’s Valley, but South Africa as a whole.

Taking the Peoples’ Choice Award, which was voted on by the public, the University of Sheffield's project was to convert a former industrial building into an apartment complex, using eco-bricks made from non-recyclable plastic waste and concrete containing recycled glass. The proposed design would deliver affordable and sustainable housing for up to 30 low-income families.

Both the runner-up and the People's Prize winners will receive a £500 educational bursary each to share between their teams.

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Emma Crichton, Head of Engineering at Engineers Without Borders UK said: “We had a tremendous response from this years’ Design Challenge with some truly remarkable solutions and ideas that could address the urban-renewal challenges that the community of Makers Valley is trying to solve.

As always, our judges were incredibly impressed with the student’s globally responsible approach to engineering and the perspective they brought on improving engineering education to serve the needs of all people and our planet.

Over 7,000 students have been involved in the 2020 challenge internationally, with the South African and USA competitions due to have their grand finals later in the year.

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Now in its ninth year, 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.

To date, over 34,500 undergraduates have been involved globally, in partnership with Engineers Without Borders SA and Engineers Without Borders USA.

To see the full list of entries, visit:

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