Design Challenge FAQs

Student Inventions

Each team has their own decision-making process. We recommend reviewing the requirements and picking a project that you believe has the best chance to improve someone's productivity or help him or her overcome a workplace obstacle.

Yes. Your team will need to supply all relevant files, including any code written for the invention. You must also provide instructions on 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. However, make sure you’ve done your research to ensure your invention is original.

There is no cost to join the competition. Your project’s cost can vary, depending on what 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.

Yes, you can have as many coaches as you would like. However, SourceAmerica will only pay for one coach to travel to Washington, D.C., if your team is selected as a finalist.

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

No. Students enrolled in any high school are eligible to join the Design Challenge. Additionally, students from different high schools may be on the same team. Community clubs are also welcome to participate. Examples include 4-H, scouts, religious groups, or social clubs such as hackerspaces/makerspaces.

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 his or her disability. He or she is the expert regarding his or her disability and will be your resource while testing and refining your invention.

Students are encouraged to work with agencies affiliated with SourceAmerica. If you are not 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. Contact Charissa Garcia, Design Challenge project manager, for assistance.

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 partner agency to use the product. It is anticipated 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.

Visuals are extremely useful tools; however, consider how you will make images inserted into your presentation available to audience members who cannot see. Alternative text is embedded in the images to provide an audio representation of the image to this audience. This video walks you through how to insert alternative text in Microsoft Word.

Yes, 3D drafting model is a new requirement. 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 our invention is software include "flow diagrams" or "logic diagrams" of the program.

You are able to use any CAD software to which you have access. If your school does not have CAD software, we suggest using Google SketchUp. Learn how to download and install this program.

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. The Design Challenge is not restricted to the SourceAmerica network. Many students often work with members of their community.

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

You can contact one of your local schools directly or contact Charissa Garcia, Design Challenge project manager.

Each agency should follow its own protocol for student supervision.

Each agency, working with the school, should follow its 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 from the students. Students will include your contact information on their team roster.


Teams may register starting August 29, 2017. Project submissions are due January 25, 2018. Finals will be announced March 1, 2018 and the finals event in Washington, D.C. will be in Spring 2018 (date coming soon).

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

Judges are looking for completed projects that demonstrate an improvement in the workplace for those with disabilities.

Projects are evaluated based on their impact on the workplace, not on 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 comprise 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, D.C.