Strathclyde students runners-up in international competition on sustainable engineering solutions

MEng Civil Engineering third years students Madeline Orr, Scott Rankin, and Ruth Rennie

A team of Strathclyde undergraduate students were runners-up in the Engineering for People Design Challenge, run by Engineers Without Borders UK.  

Over 8,500 participants from across the UK and Ireland took on the Design Challenge, which aims to broaden awareness of the social, environmental, and economic impacts of engineering.

In previous years the Design Challenge has focused on international contexts, but this year, for the first time, the competition involved designing for a community in the UK, in Govan.  

The top 36 teams, including two teams from Strathclyde, were selected and invited to join the Grand Finals where they pitched their ideas to a judging panel comprised of industry leaders, community representatives, non-governmental organisations and academics. 

Upcycling initiative

The top six teams, as decided by the judging panel, included Electrical and Mechanical Engineering students Cameron Currie, Matthew Dunn, Robbie Glass and William Halliday from the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.

To solve the problem of street litter and consequent pollution, they designed an upcycling initiative which connected people with the means to dispose of their old and broken items and gain access to cheaper second-hand repaired items. 

Matthew , a first year Electrical and Mechanical Engineering student said: “Through participating in the Design Challenge I learnt a lot about using a problem-solving mindset, a skill which hadn't come up in my studies so far. The main takeaway for me was getting to work in a great team and sharing ideas.

“The Grand Finals gave us a great opportunity to socialise with knowledgeable people from industry and other universities.

“The class was unique in that we were given a lot of freedom to do whatever we wanted creatively and have a lot of fun just letting loose with our ideas, with a reality check from the class leads from time to time!” 

The other Strathclyde team selected to the finals included Scott Rankin, Ruth Rennie, Madeline Orr from the Department Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Saskia Steimer and Chayenne Tasche, who took part in the challenge while on exchange from MCI Management Center Innsbruck (Austria). Their innovative design included a ‘smart’ compression bin system

Civil and Environmental Engineering class lead, Dr Jen Roberts, said: “Both teams selected for the Grand Finals embedded sustainable and inclusive principles through their designs and thought creatively and carefully about the implementation and delivery of their designs into the community, too.”  

Beth Robertson from Electrical and Electrical Engineering added: “Getting to witness student learning and progression through an academic year is the joy of teaching. The student teams that were in the top 36 at the Grand Finals got a bonus experience and through the event you could see their level of knowledge and understanding of the importance of sustainable design increase tenfold. The students got to see what all their work was for, and I can see in them the engineers for tomorrow that we need.” 

Environmental challenges

Since launching in 2011, over 70,000 students have participated from institutions in Cameroon, South Africa, UK, Ireland, and the USA.  

This year's design brief asks students to develop solutions that address social and environmental challenges in Govan – an area with a rich history, heritage and physical landscape located in the south-west of Glasgow, Scotland. Through their studies, teams have been exploring opportunities for developments in and around Govan that will improve environmental systems and people’s livelihoods.  

The Grand Finals were held at Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre; the first time the finals have been held outside of London. 

The winning team from the University of Greenwich impressed the judges with their concept: ‘Health Pod’, which aims to tackle food insecurity and inaccessibility to healthcare in Govan. With their innovative design for a hydroelectrically-powered greenhouse space, the team from Manchester Metropolitan University secured second prize.