Design Challenge FAQs

Student Inventions

Each team will use their own decision-making process. We recommend looking at the requirements and picking a project that you believe has the best chance to improve someone’s productivity or overcome a workplace obstacle.

Yes. Your team will need to supply all of the relevant files, including any code written for the invention. You will also need to provide instructions as to how to use the software.

No. The focus of the Design Challenge is on improving the working environment for persons with disabilities and inventions do not need to be overly complex. Do make sure that you’ve done your research to ensure that your invention is a new one.

There is no cost to join the competition. Your project’s cost can be very small or large, if your resources permit. Typically, your team is responsible for the cost of the project. However, if cost is an issue, please let us know and we will try to help.

Student Teams

A coach can be a teacher, counselor or interested adult who will guide a team of students through the Design Challenge from start to finish. We ask that coaches commit for the entire length of the process as failing to follow through would prove detrimental to the team. Learn more about requirements for high school and college students. Also, our Design Challenge Coordinator is available to answer questions.

Yes, you can have as many coaches as you would like. However, SourceAmerica will pay for only one coach to travel to the finals event in Washington, DC, should your team be selected as a finalist.

Yes, there is no limit to how many teams a school can have. However each team leader must register their team separately.

No. Students enrolled in any high school are eligible to join the Design Challenge. Students from different high schools may be on the same team. Additionally, community clubs are welcome to participate. Examples include 4-H, scouts, religious groups or makers groups.

Yes. Homeschooled students are welcome to participate.

If this occurs, simply update your team roster by saving an updated version in your Egnyte folder. There is no penalty for changes to team composition. Please note that if your team is invited to participate in the finals, SourceAmerica will pay for up to five students and one coach. Only five students from each team may present on stage. Many schools bring larger groups and cover additional costs themselves.

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is the person with whom your team is partnered and who is experiencing an employment obstacle due to their disability. They are the expert regarding their disability and will be your resource while testing and refining your invention.

Students are encouraged to work with agencies that are affiliated with SourceAmerica. To learn more about this, contact the Design Challenge Coordinator for assistance. Should you not be located near an agency, you may work with a friend, relative or person in the community who has a disability. But remember, your invention must apply to the workplace.

Yes. You do not have to identify an SME at the time of registration, however, the SME must be identified by the time you submit your project.

The students and school retain all rights to the final product. By submitting your paper, you grant a limited license to SourceAmerica and the partnered agency to use the product. It is anticipated that the agency will keep at least one product for continued use. The Authors Agreement contains further details and is available for download once you have registered.

Nonprofit Agencies

The only requirement is that participating agencies employ individuals with disabilities in their workplace. Participation is voluntary.

No. The project does not have to be for an AbilityOne contract or for an AbilityOne employee. Students often work with members of their community as the Design Challenge is not restricted to the SourceAmerica network.

No. Any financial assistance for materials to assist student teams is purely voluntary.

You can contact one of your local schools directly or contact the Design Challenge Coordinator.

Each agency should follow their own protocol for having visitors on-site.

Each agency should follow their own protocol for having visitors on-site.

Standard training voucher restrictions apply. See training information for rules and restrictions.

No. SourceAmerica does not need any information directly from your agency. All necessary information should be provided directly to the students by you. Students include your contact information on their team roster.


Project submission dates for the 2017-2018 Design Challenge will be published when registration opens in August 2017.

The Design Challenge begins during the summer and ends during the winter. Exact dates for the 2017-2018 competition will be published when registration opens in August.

Judges are looking for completed projects that demonstrate an improvement in the workplace for those with disabilities. For further information, contact the Design Challenge Coordinator.

Projects are evaluated on their impact on the workplace, not their level of sophistication. For example, a low-tech solution with a significant impact would be rated higher than a solution that was more complex, but less effective.

Judges for the Design Challenge are comprised of rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities and others with relevant backgrounds. They are responsible for evaluating the content of technical papers and videos.

Finalists are required to give a 15-minute presentation of their project to the judges and audience and respond to five minutes of judges’ questions.

Yes. SourceAmerica will pay for one coach and five team members to travel to the finals event in Washington, DC.

The 2016-2017 Design Challenge registration is now closed.

Contact Charissa Garcia at to be added to our email list for next year’s competition which opens in August 2017.