Design Challenge Student Teams

  • Each student team must register on the SourceAmerica Design Challenge website.
  • Your team must include a student leader, student team members, a coach and a subject matter expert (SME). The SME is the person with a disability who will use your invention.
  • High school teams must be composed of high school students; collegiate teams, college students. However, students do not have to be enrolled in the participating school. They may also be home-schooled or a part of a community club.
  • Each team must develop a piece of technology and/or a process designed to overcome a workplace obstacle for a person with a disability.
  • Each team is required to meet all mandatory deadlines and submit all appropriate materials described in the timeline.
  • Your invention or process must be tested, used by your SME and implemented in the workplace. Projects must be workplace/employment-related or they will be disqualified.
  • ​The student team leader must register for the Design Challenge. Late registrations are accepted; however, your team will be required to have a meeting with the Design Challenge manager, Charissa Garcia, to help ensure your team’s success. After registering, your student team leader will receive a team login and password for our file sharing system, Egnyte. This will allow you to upload your documents and project at the appropriate deadlines. The file sharing system can be found at
  • Each team and the coach will have access to the team's folder. Coaches with multiple teams will have access to folders for all their teams; however, each team leader will only have access to his or her team's folder.
  • To start your project, use your team's information to log into the Egnyte portal, download the required forms from the "Forms" folder and upload the completed forms to your team folder.

In addition to meeting all general requirements, your team must also upload the following items to your Egnyte folder by the registration deadline, October 18, 2017. Submit your completed forms by uploading them to your team folder. Add your team number to the title of the document. For example: Team Roster_Team 1234.

  • Team roster
  • Media release form for every member of the team, including the coach and SME
  • Pre-Project Survey for every member of the team
  • Mentor meeting summary
  • "Disability awareness" worksheet
  • "Who is SourceAmerica" worksheet
  • Team photo
  • Your project must include a video, technical paper and any additional paperwork. All items are mandatory and must be uploaded to your team’s Egnyte folder.
  • Items required for project submission include:
    1. A brief project summary that may be published in the event program, press releases or other event marketing/communications materials.
      • For example, "The Lincoln High School teams partnered with Nonprofit Inc. to build a towel-folding device. The device, called ‘Corners Connected,’ cut towel-folding time in half. Employees at Nonprofit Inc. have shown improvements in process time and stress reduction, as well as increased wages."
    2. Authors Agreement: One agreement per team is required, and should list all team members.
    3. Post-Project Survey: All student team members must participate in the survey.
    4. Updated Team Roster: This will determine who will receive prizes, so accurate contact information is a must. Please include contact information for your SME and/or nonprofit agency. This information will be used for an interview, if necessary.
    5. Technical Paper: The following guidelines provide basic information about format and style for your technical papers. Authors should refer to accepted style guides for additional assistance.
      • Overall length: two to 10 pages (including inset images and cover page), single spaced
      • File Format: .pdf or .doc
      • Columns: Single column throughout paper
      • Font: Times New Roman, Size 12
      • Margins: One inch all the way around
      • Title Page: Include authors’ names and the link to your project video
      • Running Header: Include a header on each page with your team ID and title of your project
      • General Style: Please choose from MLA, APA or ASME for style guidelines
      • Required Sections: Title, Abstract, Statement of Problem, Background, Rationale, Development, Final Design, Cost Analysis, Testing Procedure and Results, Community Impact, Conclusion, References and Acknowledgements
      • Graphics: Must be compressed and embedded into the paper and must use alternative text. In other words, images inserted into your presentation must be accessible to audience members who cannot see.
      • Please do not include video links in the body of the paper. The paper should stand alone as its own documentation of the invention. Please include your video link on the cover sheet only.
    6. 3D Model Drawings: the 3D model must be shown using drawings that will be included in your project submission. Include dimensioned drawings of each part in your model and an assembly of your model if necessary. If your invention is software, include "flow diagrams" or "logic diagrams" of the program.
    7. Video: The following guidelines provide basic information about video production and submission:
      • Upload your video to, and make sure your video is not password-protected or set to private. You want the judges to be able to watch it!
      • Reference the link on the cover page of your paper.
      • Do NOT turn in the actual video files.
      • Video must be a minimum of three minutes long, but not exceed five minutes.
      • Captions are required. Captions should be embedded in the video.
      • The video must show the SME using a functioning prototype in the workplace.
      • Include a discussion of prototype testing.
      • Explain all invention benefits.

Teams that meet all the above-mentioned criteria will be considered semifinalists, and their entries will be submitted to a panel of judges to determine which teams will be selected as finalists.

A panel of judges will then review and score the qualified semifinalist entries. Scores are averaged, and teams are ranked based on those scores. The nonprofit agency and SME of the top 10 to 15 teams for each level will be interviewed.

If your team is selected to be interviewed, SourceAmerica will reach out to the nonprofit agency and SME directly. The interview will consist of questions about the project and its effect on the workplace. These interviews will be presented to and reviewed by judges to determine the finalists.

Five high school teams and three college teams will be chosen as finalists. SourceAmerica will contact the coaches of the finalist teams.

A maximum of two teams from the same school or organization are permitted in the finals. If more than two teams from the same school or organization qualify for the finals, the two teams with the highest scores will be chosen and the remaining team(s) will receive an honorable mention.

The finals event will take place in spring 2018 in Washington, D.C. Finalist teams will present their projects in front of a judging panel and an audience. Your team should prepare a poster presentation highlighting your invention, with a live demonstration of your working prototype.

The three-day event also includes training sessions and congressional visits on Capitol Hill.

Judges for the SourceAmerica Design Challenge comprise rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities and others with relevant backgrounds. They will evaluate the technical papers and videos.

Judges will evaluate the projects based on their positive impact on the workplace, such as job creation/retention, wage increases, production increases, contracts gained, waste reduction, stress/anxiety reduction and improved processes.

SourceAmerica will pay expenses for each finalist team to travel to the finals event. A finalist team consists of one coach, up to five presenting team members, one agency representative, one subject matter expert (SME) and a SME assistant (if needed). In addition to the trip to Washington, D.C., each team will receive a monetary award, which is divided and distributed as follows:

  • School: The educational establishment associated with the team will receive a check that corresponds with its team’s placement in the competition.
  • Team: The total dollar amount is equally divided among the student team members, coach and SME. Teams that prefer an unequal division of the prize money must have the request approved by SourceAmerica. This can be arranged on a team-by-team basis.
  • Nonprofit Agency: The nonprofit agency associated with the team will receive a check that corresponds with its team's placement in the competition.

Monetary awards are as follows:

High School

  • 1st Place: School $6,000, Team $8,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000
  • 2nd Place: School $5,000, Team $7,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000
  • 3rd Place: School $4,000, Team $6,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000
  • 4th Place: School $3,000, Team $5,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000
  • 5th Place: School $3,000, Team $4,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000


  • 1st Place: School $6,000, Team $8,000, Nonprofit Agency $3,000
  • 2nd Place: School $5,000, Team $7,000, Nonprofit Agency $2,000
  • 3rd Place: School $4,000, Team $6,000, Nonprofit Agency $1,000

SourceAmerica encourages all teams to ask questions and use the provided resources to complete the Design Challenge. Please review the information below, including the Mentorship Program, Disability Awareness brochure and Testing Tips.

Mentorship Program

SourceAmerica encourages students to take advantage of SourceAmerica mentors/advisors—individuals outside of your school and/or the NPA who can offer additional assistance—to provide support and advice throughout the competition. They include rehabilitation engineers, Design Challenge judges and former student coaches.

Mentor/team relationships do not influence judging in any way. To request a mentor, please contact Charissa Garcia.

Disability Awareness

We require the use of people-first language for this competition. Please review the Disability Awareness brochure for more information on people-first language and read more about disability issues on the Department of Labor website.

Testing Tips

  • Choose a method to define productivity that most directly applies to your invention or process, and describe how you are testing it. Some ways to capture productivity include: time per unit, number of steps and number of correct units.
  • Remember to test productivity before and after the implementation of your project to assess your device's effect.

3D Drafting Tips

  • Include dimensions in your model.
  • After you have completed the model, generate a drawing set.
  • If your model has multiple parts, include drawings from each part along with the assembly drawing. It may be helpful to include an exploded assembly drawing.
  • Make sure your parts list is included in the assembly drawing, if applicable.
  • Include dimensions in your drawings, and make sure they are visible.
  • If you need extra assistance, please see the additional resources page to reference lessons and videos for different learning topics.
  • If your invention is software provide flow diagrams or logic diagrams in place of the 3D model.

Video Tips

  • Tell a story with your video while keeping the focus on your invention.
  • Make your video clear. If you have music, it should not be louder than the people speaking.
  • Use a tripod to make your video less shaky.
  • Captioning MUST be used within the video.
  • Incorporate close-up photos of your device to highlight details.
  • Video rendering and editing always takes longer than expected, so make sure to allocate enough time for this step.
  • Helpful Video: How to Make a YouTube Video

Presentation Tips

  • Show clips of your video, but not the entire video, since you will be there to explain the invention.
  • Bring the invention or a working prototype, if possible.
  • Be clear and concise.