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Product Design students scoop runner-up prize at the Engineers Without Borders UK challenge

A team of four second year BSc (Hons) Product Design students were awarded second place in the Grand Final of the annual Engineering for People Design Challenge for their project Safe Spot.

Ashley Marlborough, Franklin Fairbrass, Tyler Blackborough and Joanne Robinson: Engineers Without Borders UK competition
(L-R) Ashley Marlborough, Tyler Blackborough, Joanne Robinson, and Franklin Fairbrass at the Engineering Without Borders competition in London

The annual competition is organised by Engineers Without Borders UK, a charity dedicated to inspiring people to become engineers, changing how future engineers are educated, and encouraging practicing engineers to apply their skills to make a positive contribution as responsible global citizens.

This year's brief focused on the communities located in Tamil Nadu, India, where the vast majority of people still live in rural areas whereby the population is steadily increasing. Student groups were challenged to rethink rural life and come up with ideas that underpin aspirational lifestyles – addressing the impacts of poor water and sanitation, a lack of waste management, limited transport and digital systems and unreliable energy infrastructure.

This year was the biggest yet for the competition, with over 6,500 first and second year students from universities across the UK and Ireland participating, including three teams from NTU; two for Product Design and one for Civil Engineering. 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.

Four Product Design students; Ashley Marlborough, Franklin Fairbrass, Tyler Blackborough and Joanne Robinson were awarded 2nd place in the competition for their project SafeSpot, an innovative design for a hygienic, discreet and sustainable sanitary towel.

The proposed product contained a reclaimed cotton pouch and bamboo cloths to improve the menstrual health of young women in rural areas of Tamil Nadu. Bamboo cloth is proposed as a replacement for current sanitary rags, as it is more absorbent, possesses antibacterial properties and can be cleaned to reuse.

The team were commended by academics, judges and the CEO of Engineers Without Borders UK – Katie Cresswell-Maynard – for their innovative design and crucial demonstration of sustainable, equal and inspirational design and engineering practices.

Matthew Watkins, Senior Lecturer in BSc (Hons) Product Design accompanied the students to the competition, and told us more about their experience as a whole. “The Engineering for People Design Challenge grand final was a fantastic experience for the students to present their work and justify their design solutions to professional judges with expertise in international development. SafeSpot rose to the challenge of presenting in the final top six teams selected to present to over 150 attendees.”

After the event, the Engineers Without Borders UK team issued a press release to commend students participating in the competition, in which they told us more about why the annual competition is so vitally important for the sector. “The student proposed engineering innovations have demonstrated the crucial role engineering has to play in ensuring the future is ecologically sustainable, and more socially equal. Through the Engineering for People Design Challenge we are creating a generation entering the workplace ready to tackle our global challenges.”

Published on 28 June 2019
  • Subject area: Architecture and civil engineering
  • Category: Culture; Current students; Research; School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment