UCD team takes top prize at this year's Engineering for People Design Challenge

Posted 13 July, 2020

A team from University College Dublin took the top prize at this year's Engineering for People Design Challenge.

The competition, by Engineers Without Borders UK, saw Clodagh Parkinson, Jennifer Carroll, and Shane Morrisroe, each a first-year student at the UCD College of Engineering and Architecture. claim the coveted number one slot for their submission which looked to solve the lack of internet access in urban communities in South Africa.

This year the Engineering for People Design Challenge focused on Makers Valley, a neighbourhood in Johannesburg, and students were tasked with creating opportunities to improve the lives of those who live there.

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.

For their submission, the UCD team addressed the lack of internet access in Makers Valley. They created the Connectivi-Tree – a mesh WiFi network system with each router housed in an installation made by local artists and micro-enterprises.

The project aims at allowing communities to take ownership of their space and regenerate the local area.

Beating a total of 28 university teams from across the UK and Ireland, the UCD team each received an educational bursary worth £2,000.

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 the community of makers and artists."

Emma Crichton, Head of Engineering at Engineers Without Borders UK, said: “We had a tremendous response from this year's Design Challenge with some truly remarkable solutions and ideas that illustrated the students growing understanding of global responsibility in engineering design.”

"Our judges were incredibly impressed with the student’s approach, and their attention to the social, environmental and economic considerations within Maker Valley. Some judges were so impressed they could even foresee the community taking inspiration from the ideas to make a reality."

Over 7,000 students have been involved in the 2019/20 challenge internationally with the South African and USA competitions due to have their grand finals later in the year.

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.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations