Engineers Without Borders UK launches 10th Engineering for People Design Challenge

24 September 2020

Engineers Without Borders UK launches 10th Engineering for People Design Challenge_Student participants_580x280

UK Engineers Without Borders organisation collaborates with South Africa & USA counterparts to generate sustainable engineering concepts for coastal communities in Peru in its 2020/21 Engineering for People Design Challenge, already set to be unique due to the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers Without Borders UK, leading a movement to put global responsibility at the heart of engineering, has launched its 2020/21 cycle of its 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, positively impacting the local community.

Now in its tenth year, the Challenge has reached over 41,500 undergraduate students to date. Already embedded in the undergraduate curriculum at dozens of UK universities, the 2019/20 instalment was extended to reach more than 7,000 students over three continents.

The 2020/21 Design Challenge focuses on the neighbouring communities of Lobitos and Piedritas on the northern coast of Peru – an increasingly popular tourist spot, due to the excellent surfing conditions in the region. The two towns still experience significant challenges in regards to sustainable waste management, energy, food and water supply, digital communications and transport infrastructure.

COVID-19 has placed further pressure on communities already struggling to access the economic benefits that the growing tourism industry offers through employment, investment and direct tourist spending.  

Working with EcoSwell, a local charity established by surfers to support coastal communities to reach the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the 2020/21 competition will encourage students to consider the sustainability challenges and opportunities of ecotourism to the settlements that support it.

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 a bid to win the Grand Prize of a educational bursary. The runner-up and the People's Prize winners will also receive an educational bursary to share between them.

Andres Bustamante, Director of Marketing & Public Relations at EcoSwell said: “This is our second time participating in the Engineering for People Design Challenge and we could not be more thrilled, as our first experience was fantastic. The quality of innovative and well thought out project ideas, which grasped the local context of our region, was inspiring and extremely useful for us. In 2019, we implemented the winning project proposed in the 2016/17 Challenge and it is now improving the lives of over a thousand people in Lobitos."

"We are very excited to see what the students are capable of, considering the extremely challenging circumstances we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This terrible tragedy has also created an opportunity to rethink societies, economies, and our relationship with the environment. Truly understanding this current context, the local culture and way of life, will be key for designing viable and impactful solutions. I believe the students will rise to the occasion."

Engineers Without Borders UK launches 10th Engineering for People Design Challenge_Challenge Location_580x280

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.

The 2020/21 challenge is set to be unique due to the context of COVID-19 and the teams will be working in step with the wider engineering community in their attempts to deliver sustainable solutions to ongoing issues during a pandemic.

Lobitos and Piedritas hosted one of our challenges back in 2016 - so it will be fascinating to see how students approach their designs four years on from the previous activity in this region.

I look forward to seeing how the teams will rise to the challenge and demonstrate how engineering can be a force for reducing inequality, protecting the environment and improving the lives of people all over the world.

Sign up for the Engineering for People Design Challenge 2020/21 at:

For universities:

Winnings teams do not travel to the challenge locale to directly apply their solutions.

To sign up, course leaders at universities should contact:

UK -

South Africa -


Download the University participation guide here:

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