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UK students set to tackle engineering challenges in an unpredictable world

  • Five UK student engineering teams selected to compete against teams from the US and China ahead of a major engineering summit
  • Two teams from Loughborough join teams from Cambridge, Heriot-Watt and Surrey universities representing the UK

Five teams of undergraduate engineering students from UK universities have been selected to compete against student teams from the US and China as part of a special Collaboration Lab competition on 12-16 September 2019 ahead of the Global Grand Challenges Summit in London on 16-18 September. The GGCS2019 summit, Engineering in an unpredictable world, will bring 900 engineers from all over the world to London to address the opportunities and challenges posed by the two major themes of the summit: the impact of artificial intelligence and resources for a global population of 10 billion.

The Collaboration Lab will be the culmination of a six-month programme of challenge-led innovation, design and business development for the students. Five winning teams from each nation will pitch their proposals to a panel of senior judges in London on 13 September. Then the teams will be reassembled into mixed country teams to tackle the same issues in a new way, to demonstrate the power of diversity and cross-cultural working.

The UK’s student teams come from the University of Cambridge, Heriot-Watt University, two groups from Loughborough University and a team from the University of Surrey.

“The judges were highly impressed with the ingenuity, thoughtfulness, ambition and energy displayed by all the participants. The five teams that were selected will do a great job representing the UK in the competition at the Global Grand Challenges Summit, but we hope all the students involved will join them at the GGCS Collaboration Workshop, because it’s clear they will be able to make a major contribution to the mixed country teams that will be formed.”

Dr John Lazar CBE FREng, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Chair of the GGCS2019 Steering Group

Student team details

The student teams are as follows. They will return to London for the Collaboration Lab competition on 13 September:

University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge team

Innovation title: Improving Nutrition through Dehydration Innovation

Team members: Zhiqi Wang, Evonne Lee

Team mentors: Jennifer Jia

Innovation synopsis: More than 70% of people worldwide don’t consume sufficient fruits and vegetables. This is a huge issue that is a burden on the healthcare system. To improve general wellbeing, we propose a solution to improve access to a fruit and vegetable alternative. Using microwave dehydration, we have made a fruit and vegetable powdered drink mix that is tasty, convenient and natural.

Heriot-Watt University

Heriot-Watt University team

Innovation title: Hive House

Team members: Gabriela Amaya, Niamh McPhee, Gavin Nicholson, Ellenor Witton

Team mentors: Alex Maclaren, Dr David Kelly

Innovation synopsis: Our solution to the issue of sustaining 10 billion people is prefabricated modular housing which can be stacked or expanded as and when is needed. The Hive House will be built of cross laminated timber, which can be made from recycled timber or bamboo.

Loughborough University 1

Loughborough Univesity team 1

Innovation title: A modularised, off-grid toilet block that generates resources for urbanising communities in developing countries

Team members: Tegan Forbes, Jonathan Barnes, Oliver Glover-Wilson, Luis Goate, Ross Macdonald

Team mentors: Dr Yee Mey Goh, Stuart Wicks

Innovation synopsis: A self-sustaining, off-grid toilet block designed within a shipping container to be implemented as a turnkey solution to tackle the lack of sanitation in rural and rapidly urbanising communities. A biodigestor-centred system uses human waste to create high quality fertiliser and generate electricity for local lighting and phone charging.

Loughborough University 2

Loughborough University team 2

Innovation title: Disaster Relief Shelter

Team members: Abbie Hurt, Chiara Brown

Team mentors: Dr Ashraf El-Hamalawi

Innovation synopsis: With the world’s population increasing to 10 billion, the number of people affected by disasters will grow. We have designed intermediate-term housing for displaced populations in the aftermath of both natural and humanitarian crises. The shelter is modular, meaning it can be adapted for the individuals needs of people living there. It provides each family with a private space to live in as well as open shared areas to maintain a sense of community after such disasters.

University of Surrey

University of Surrey team

Innovation title: A Post-Harvest Storage Network for Developing Countries

Team members: Ishanki De Mel, Nikolina Pieri, John Azurin, Zaria Shafiei, Clement Ibeh

Team mentors: Professor Esat Alpay

Innovation synopsis: Our idea aims to contribute towards a vision of ‘Zero Hunger’ by 2050 by reducing post-harvest storage losses in developing countries. The storage network is essentially like Airbnb for grains, where farmers can make the best use of their individual storage spaces and minimise wastage due to inadequate centralised storage. It has been modelled on an optimisation tool (minimising costs associated with storage and transportation), and will be implemented via a Progressive Web Application (PWA).

Notes for Editors

  1. Engineering in an unpredictable world marks the start of a second series of summits jointly hosted by the UK, US and Chinese academies of engineering. Inspired by the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering, the summit will challenge engineers to address the issues set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on sustaining a world of 10 billion people, and ensuring that AI and other transformational technologies have a positive impact on humanity.

For more information on Engineering in an unpredictable world, please visit

Engineering in an unpredictable world – the Global Grand Challenges Summit 2019 – has been made possible by the generous support of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Accenture Strategy and Lockheed Martin.

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering

We bring together the most successful and talented engineers from across the profession – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We have three strategic priorities: make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses, address the engineering skills crisis, and position engineering at the heart of society. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

For more information please contact the Royal Academy of Engineering:

Jane Sutton, tel. 020 7766 0636; email: [email protected]

Ryan Gibson; tel. 0207 766 0688; email: [email protected]

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