Design Challenge Student Teams

  • Each student team must register on the SourceAmerica Design Challenge website. This will provide you with a login that you will use to submit all of your paperwork, video and project.
  • Your team must include students, a subject matter expert (SME) and a coach. The SME is a person with a disability who will use your invention.
  • High school teams must be comprised of high school students and collegiate teams must be comprised of college students. Please note that students do not have to be enrolled in the school with which they participate. They can also be part of a community club or homeschooled.
  • 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 deliverables along the way.
  • Your invention must be tested, used by your SME and implemented in the workplace. Projects that are not workplace/employment related will be disqualified.
  • Student teams must register for the Design Challenge at You will receive a team login and password for the file sharing system, Egnyte. The login and password will allow you to upload your documents and project at the appropriate deadlines. The web address for the file sharing system is
  • Each team and coach will have access to their folder(s). Please note that the coach logins and passwords are independent of those of the teams. This allows the coach to access several teams, while maintaining each teams' privacy.
  • To start your project, use your team login to access and to download required forms.

In addition to meeting all of the general requirements, you must upload the following items to your team folder by the registration deadline:

  • Team roster
  • Media release form for every member of the team including coach and SME
  • Pre-Project Survey
  • Mentor meeting summary
  • "Disability awareness" worksheet
  • "What is SourceAmerica" worksheet
  • Team photo

Late Registration: If you have missed the registration deadline and still want to participate, contact Charissa Garcia at With catch-up training, your team can still participate to create a successful project.

  • Once your project has been submitted, it will be evaluated to determine if your team will be a finalist.
  • Your project must include a video, technical paper and any additional paperwork. All of these items are considered mandatory and must be uploaded to your team folder at
  • Items required for project submission include:

A brief project summary that may be published. For example, 'The Lincoln High School teams partnered with Nonprofit Inc. to build a towel-folding device. The device, called "Corners Connected", cut the initial towel-folding time in half. Employees at Nonprofit Inc. have shown improvements in process time, stress reduction, as well as wage increases.'

Authors Agreement: One agreement per team is required, but it must contain a list of all team members.

Post-Project Survey: All student team members must participate in the survey.

Updated Team Roster: As this will determine who will receive prizes, accurate contact information is a must. Also, include accurate contact information for your SME and/or nonprofit agency. This information will be used for an interview, if necessary.

Technical Paper: The following guidelines provide basic information about format and style for discussion papers. Authors should refer to accepted style guides for additional assistance.

  • Overall length: 2-10 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 page
  • 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. Wrapped text is permitted.
  • 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.

Video: The following guidelines provide basic information about video production and submission:

  • Submit the link to your video. Your team can upload it to a service like and submit the link.
  • Reference your video link on the cover page of your paper. DO NOT turn in the actual video files.
  • Video must be three to five minutes in length
  • Captions are required
  • Video must demonstrate a functioning prototype being used by the SME in the workplace
  • Discussion of prototype testing must be included
  • Invention benefits must be explained

Tip: Make sure your video is not password-protected or set to private. You want the judges to be able to watch it!

Once team entries are received, they are reviewed. Teams which meet all of the above-mentioned criteria are considered semifinalists and their entries are submitted to a panel of judges.

A panel of judges review and score the qualified semifinalist entries. These scores are averaged and the teams are ranked to average score. The nonprofit agency/SME of the top 10 to 15 teams will be interviewed.

If your team has been selected to be interviewed, SourceAmerica will reach out to the nonprofit agency/SME directly. (Note: This is why an accurate team roster is important!) The interview will consist of questions about the project and its effect on the workplace. These interviews are presented to and reviewed by the judges to determine the finalists.

Five high school teams and three college teams will be chosen as finalists. The coaches of the finalist teams will be contacted by SourceAmerica. Please ensure that the contact information on your roster is correct.

The finals event will be held in spring 2018. Exact dates will be announced shortly.

Finalist teams will be invited to present in Washington D.C. in front of a judging panel and an audience. Your team should be prepared to present a poster highlighting your invention, a live presentation/demonstration, and your working prototype.

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

At the high school level, a maximum of two teams from the same school or organization will be permitted in the finals. In the case that 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 teams will receive an honorable mention.

At the collegiate level, a maximum of one team from the same school or organization will be permitted in the finals. In the case that more than one team from the same school or organization qualify for the finals, the team with the highest scores will be chosen and the remaining teams will receive an honorable mention.

Judges for the SourceAmerica Design Challenge entries are comprised of rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities, and others with relevant background. They will evaluate the content of the technical papers and videos.

The projects are judged on positive impact on the workplace. For example, job creation/retention, wage increases, production increases, contracts gained, waste reduction, stress/anxiety reduction, and improved processes are some of the positive impacts captured in the past.

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, DC, a monetary award will be presented to each team. Cash awards are divided and distributed as follows:

  • School: The educational establishment associated with the team will receive a check for the amount listed below that corresponds with their team's placement.
  • Team: The total dollar amount is equally divided among the student team members, coach, and SME. If the team requests an unequal division of the prize money, this will be arranged on a team-by team basis and will require approval from SourceAmerica.
  • Nonprofit Agency: The nonprofit agency associated with the team will receive a check for the amount below that corresponds with their team's placement.

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 information provided below including the Mentorship Program, the Disability Awareness brochure, and Tips.

Mentorship Program

Students are encouraged to take advantage of SourceAmerica mentors/advisors to help you throughout the competition. These are individuals outside of your school and/or the NPA who can offer additional assistance. They are rehabilitation engineers, Design Challenge judges or former student coaches.

Mentors are happy to provide support to any team that requests it. Mentor - team relationships do not influence judging in any way. To request a mentor, please contact

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. You can also read more about disability issues here.

Testing Tips

  • Remember to test productivity before and after the invention.
  • Describe your definition of productivity and how you are testing it. Time per unit, number of steps, and number of correct units are just some of the ways to capture productivity.

Video Tips

  • Remember to tell a story with your video, but the focus should be on the invention.
  • Make your video clear. If you have music, it should not be louder than the people speaking.
  • Try to use a tripod to make your video less shaky.
  • Captioning MUST be used.
  • Use 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.
  • How to Make a YouTube Video

Presentation Tips

  • You probably want to show clips of your video, but not the whole video as you will be there to explain the invention.
  • Try to bring the invention or a working sample.
  • Be clear and concise.

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.