This 2nd year module uses the Engineering without Borders (EwB) challenge for groups of students to create design solutions for SDG related issues in communities.


What was the programme or module?

The Project Management (ENGD2010) module. It is available to 2nd year students on the Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and Mechatronics programmes.

2014-2015 EwB Grand Finals DMU Team Members


What happened?

Overview: This module includes a piece of group work, in which students take part in the Engineering without Borders (EwB) challenge. This involves creating a design solution to a problem within a community. Many of the problem areas relate back to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The best 5 designs are submitted to the national EwB challenge, one of which is then selected by the EwB to represent the university in the Grand Finals.


Context: When I started teaching this module in 2013-14, Prof. Richard Bull advised me to incorporate the Engineering without Borders (EwB) challenge into the curriculum of the module. Therefore, I started attending some EwB academic meetings to understand and plan the design challenge and how it could be incorporated in the module. Since 2014-15, the EwB challenge has been introduced as part of the module’s coursework.


Description: The group coursework is to partake in the EwB Challenge, where the students (in teams) need to select a problem to address in one or more design areas for a specific community, based on the design brief provided by EwB. The seven design areas to select from are: water, sanitation, energy, transport, waste, built environment, and digital. These design areas and their corresponding problems to address are clearly connected with the Sustainable Development Goals. Each year, EwB works with NGO partners in different countries and prepare a Design Brief, used by all the participating universities.

The group coursework consists of preparing a report, a presentation and a poster on their design solution, addressing their selected problem and explaining how the teams used project management tools and concepts during the project (60% of the overall mark). Hence, students need to research and understand the context of the community to develop a design solution that is appropriate for the community. The design solutions are evaluated not only based on scientific or engineering aspects, but also based on the environmental, social or economic benefits the solutions could provide to the community. The best 5 design solutions (teams) are selected and submitted to the EwB. Subsequently, EwB selects one team to represent the university in the Grand Finals, competing with the participating universities across the UK and Ireland.


Evaluation: The EwB design challenge has been increasingly accepted by students and programme leaders of the courses since its inception in 2014-15, including the Head of School. The current module template (2018-19) recognises that this module contributes with several AHEP3 (Accreditation of Higher Education Programmes) learning outcomes for engineering degrees, but most importantly to the ones related to Economic, legal, social, ethical and environmental context (EL2, EL3b, EL4, EL5, EL6).


Next Steps:  It is expected that the group coursework on this module will continue to be linked with the EwB design challenge in the forthcoming academic years. Some of the 2nd year students are inclined to select topics related to Sustainable Development for their final year projects in Year 3.

“… it was nice to have this module linked to a real project… Being able to apply yourself as an engineer to any project is important, and designing creative solutions that really could make a difference in somebody’s life is very rewarding and exciting.” – Henry Spencer (EwB Grand finals DMU team 2014-15)

2015-16 EwB Grand Finals DMU Team Poster


Why are the SDGs important to this subject?

I think that teaching the SDGs alongside the EwB Engineering for People design challenge is relevant to prepare students to become globally responsible engineers, who take into account ethical, environmental, social and cultural aspects in their engineering practice. On some occasions, technological innovations have unintended consequences. Having a holistic approach when designing technologies may help to select appropriate technologies for the communities and minimise their negative impacts.

Based on the design areas for the EwB design challenge and depending on the ones selected by the teams, the group projects focus on the following SDGs:

  • SDG6: Clean water and sanitation
  • SDG7: Affordable and clean energy
  • SDG9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG13: Climate action (mitigation if reducing emissions or adaptation, when focusing on resilience)

In some cases, the design solutions may contribute to SDG3 (good health and well-being)

“Design engineering is about using similar existing solutions and tailoring it to the current needs… Our solution is cheap, easy to construct and works perfectly for the situation – which is what was the primary requirement” – Sharon Suresh Kumar (EwB Grand finals DMU team 2014-15)

What would you recommend to colleagues considering adopting a similar approach?

The lectures usually focus on the concepts and tools of project management. The application of these tools for the EwB design challenge group project is the main focus of the seminars. Particular tools, such as the PESTLE (political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environment) and stakeholder analysis, are relevant for the students to understand the context and needs of the communities they are designing for. With this understanding, it is likely that teams incorporate relevant environmental, social and economic aspects into their design process (in most cases, but not all of the teams).

In the delivery of the seminars, we do not explicitly mention the UNSDGs as part of the design process. Therefore, many students miss this connection with their EwB project. Perhaps, we should dedicate one seminar linking the UNSDGs with the EwB design brief.


2017-18 EwB Grand Finals DMU Team Design Solution Description. 

Source: Engineering without Borders UK (2018). Engineering for People Design Challenge, Student ideas 2018, London, UK. Available at:



Module Leader, Dr Leticia Ozawa-Meida,

Deputy Module Leader, Dr Kegong Diao,


This post is one of a series of case studies describing teaching and learning activities linked to the SDGs at DMU.