Leeds ladies take top spot in community design challenge

Two young female engineers from Leeds Beckett University have won the grand Engineering for People Design Challenge prize.


Lydia Williams and Charlotte Sutherland (left) - both civil engineering students at Leeds Beckett - designed a women’s community hub for people living in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, using locally sourced natural and affordable materials. The annual competition is organised by Engineers Without Borders UK, a charity dedicated to inspiring the engineering community to serve people across the planet.

Tamil Nadu was chosen as the inspiration for this year’s brief, as it’s increasing rural population poses some unique engineering challenges. Its biggest city, Chennai, is currently suffering a major water crisis. Students were challenged to rethink rural life and propose interventions that underpin aspirational lifestyles and address the impacts of poor water and sanitation provision, a lack of waste management, limited transport and digital infrastructure and unreliable energy provision.

“It feels incredible to have won the Grand Prize,” said Lydia. “Taking part in the competition was a really positive experience, from start to finish. We learnt so much about the importance of sustainable design and engineering, while also developing our skills in key areas such as teamworking, brainstorming and problem solving.”

“The Engineering for People Design Challenge is a real force for change,” added Charlotte. “The global nature of the competition provided real insight into some of the major problems that the world is facing. On a personal level, taking part really helped to boost my confidence, especially when it came to project presentations.”

Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu (Image by sreesai from Pixabay)

Over 6,500 first and second year students from universities across the UK and Ireland participated in the competition. The Grand Finals, held at the IET in London on 14th June, saw the top 37 teams pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges in a bid to win the Grand Prize of a £2,000 educational bursary.

“The level of skill, commitment and insight we have seen today has been outstanding” said Katie Cresswell-Maynard, chief executive of Engineers Without Borders UK.

“What the Engineering for People Design Challenge encourages students to do is demonstrate a real understanding of the social, environmental and economic implications of engineering, rather than just technical skills, and come up with some truly innovative ideas that could provide real benefits to people.