Summer 2020 Design Challenges

As we aspire to have a positive impact on our world, Engineering for Humanity is our collective vision. This summer, we are excited to be offering opportunities to enable you to take action on this vision—to engage you in a current challenge and enable you to dive into a problem and explore creative approaches and potential solutions—by participating in a Columbia Design Challenge along with peers.

These 6-week challenges will run this summer and will be split into two sessions.

Session I: Starting the Week of June 8

(To find a course, search for the call number in SSOL)

Mitigating Climate Change through Innovative Energy Storage Applications
(Climate Change Mitigation Chal, call number 14158) 
Faculty leads: Alan West, Lauren Marbella, Alex Urban

Accelerating Scaled Vaccine Production to Meet a Pandemic Response
(Vaccine Design Challenge, call number 14157)
Faculty leads: Aaron Moment, Sanat Kumar, Jingyue Ju, Scott Banta, Venkat Venkatasubramanian

Transit Safety Post-COVID-19
(Transit Safety Post-COVID-19, call number 14160)
Faculty leads: Mysore Nagaraja, Sharon Di

Session II: Starting the Week of July 6

Reducing Inequity in a World Shaped by COVID-19
(Reducing Inequity & COVID-19, call number 14156)
Faculty leads: Lydia Chilton, Harry West

Promoting Social Interactions in a World Shaped by COVID-19
(Social Interactions & COVID-19, call number 14159)
Faculty leads: Harry West, Lydia Chilton, Hod Lipson

Safer Medical Care and COVID-19
(Safer Medical Care & COVID-19, call number 14155)
Faculty leads: Katie Reuther, Kristin Myers, Lydia Chilton, Harry West


INFORMATION SESSION: Thursday June 4 at 3-4pm on zoom.

Students may register for a maximum of one challenge per session. To join, please complete the following two steps: 

  1. Fill out the interest form by June 4. This gives faculty the chance to understand your skills and background for the design challenges. 
  2. Register on SSOL using the course call numbers: these design challenges are available as 0 credit courses (Pass/Fail) on your transcript. If you need a registration appointment, please email [email protected].

Join the information session on Thursday June 4 for an overview of the basic framework and timeline of our Summer Columbia Design Challenge and a description of each challenge topic.

For those of you who haven’t joined a Columbia Design Challenge before, here are the basics:

  • Problem Overview: Our faculty will start by presenting an overview of the problem. They may be joined by various experts in the field who will share their own perspectives on the contexts and key issues surrounding the problem. Q&A then follows.
  • Design Basics: We will also offer a very introductory “Design 101” on some of the basics of design as a part of each challenge to assist you in thinking on the context and needs of the challenge prior to diving into potential “solutions”- no prior experience in design is necessary. *Faculty will also then review the goals and objectives for the challenge, and Q&A.
  • Students then conduct some initial brainstorming with teams. Students are strongly encouraged to join teams and we will facilitate team formation as best we can in the virtual setting.
  • The subsequent weeks have weekly check-in points with the faculty for feedback and advise; a course assistant is available during the week to also advise as needed.
  • Final presentations will be at the end of each challenge, with an audience of peers, faculty and mentors.

Each design challenge promises to be an intense and fun, fast learning experience where students will take a deep dive into various subjects. Join SEAS faculty and experts in the field to tackle important societal needs (some related to the world post-COVID).  Student teams will be supported by faculty and mentors along the way; there will also be prizes awarded to the top designs. Be inspired this summer, join a team, and confront a real problem!