Center for Socially Engaged Design

Register for the Design Expo by Friday, November 8, 2019 to showcase your design work! Be sure to indicate your interest in being considered for the Socially Engaged Design Awards with C-SED!

Access the Registration Form here!

Design Expo & Socially Engaged Design Awards

Design Expo

The Design Expo is hosted every semester by the Multidisciplinary Design Program (MDP) to “showcase the achievements of our students in engineering design and prototyping, and demonstrate applications of their studies that solve real-life problems. These opportunities enhance our undergraduate engineering experience and give students the edge they need to be successful professionals in today’s demanding marketplace.”

Socially Engaged Design Awards

The Socially Engaged Design Awards are a great way to achieve public recognition for the work you’ve put in to your design in considering the larger context behind the problem scope and interactions that go beyond the immediate design team or course work. This demonstrates your versatility and ability to ‘think outside the box’ beyond traditional curriculum education.

Criteria for a Socially Engaged Design Project

Let us know you’re interested in being considered for the Socially Engaged Design Award. Meet with a C-SED Consultant about your design project throughout the semester. Set up your team for success by building your skills in socially engaged design throughout the semester: meet with consultants, receive feedback and participate in workshops when possible.


Projects and presentations are evaluated on their attention to the broader context of design, engagement with and incorporation of stakeholder expertise, application of qualitative research methods, use of respectful and co-creative language, and product quality.
Note: Criteria subject to change.


Consider the broader context of design (social, cultural, economic, environmental, etc…). What considerations should or could be made with respect to material selection, manufacturing, implementation, adoption, disposal, etc…?

User, Stakeholder and Community Engagement

Consider user/stakeholder engagement for information gathering, design, and incorporation of knowledge, skills, ideas and perspectives. How are you interacting or engaging with users and stakeholders (directly or indirectly)? Who are your users/stakeholders and how do they fit in to the design work? How involved are they in the design process? How are you considering their experiences, knowledge and feedback throughout the design process?


Consider methods to engage, learn, and understand your users/stakeholders, the problem context, and solution space. Methods may include but are not limited to: interviews, observations, focus groups, surveys, direct participation, secondary research, etc… What methods are you using to gather information and obtain feedback? How do you use different tools to engage with users/stakeholders, or for your own learning and project progression?


Consider how you talk to and about the users/stakeholders with whom you are interacting. Are you design with or for them? How are you co-designing? Think of how you use respectful, co-creative language with and about users/stakeholders, needs, and solutions.


Consider technical soundness of the product, likelihood of it addressing the need, consideration of user requirements and specifications, and likelihood of adoption by the users/stakeholders. How do you know that what you designed is suitable and appropriate beyond quantitative technical specifications?


  1. Indicate your interest in being considered for the Socially Engaged Design Awards in the Design Expo Registration Form.
  2. We will review the applications and let you know approximately 1 month before the Design Expo if you will be evaluated as a Socially Engaged Design project.
  3. Upon approval, receive feedback to refine your work, and strengthen your design and ability to meet the Socially Engaged Design criteria.
  4. Attend the Design Expo for evaluation of your project by judges from across campus.
  5. Award winners will be announced via email the week of December 9.

Previous Winners

Fall 2019

Special thanks to the judges who make the Socially Engaged Design Awards possible: Alison Climes, Marianna Coulentianos, Julia Dinoto, Robert Loweth, Jeffrey Plot, David Santos Llave, Matthew Pirone, Danyelle Reynolds, Tallie Ritter, and Randy Schwemmin.

First Place: Zenuity

Through this project, we sought to engineer an “intelligent dialogue” between pedestrians and autonomous vehicles. Given the advent of technology in the transportation industry, and the rise of disruptive technologies that challenge the traditional way we travel, Zenuity, an autonomous driving and advanced driver assistance systems software development company, tasked us with understanding and designing the dynamics of communication between cars and people.

Here’s what the judges had to say:

“Overall, this was a great project that really took the needs and desires of a diverse sample of pedestrian stakeholders into account while designing a practical solutions!”

“This team did an amazing job of broadly discovering what pedestrian stakeholders want and need when interacting with autonomous vehicles. They took the needs of a diverse group of stakeholders into account to ensure that their product was useful to the whole spectrum of possible users. All of these considerations were present throughout their design process and led to a project that really encompassed the methods and ideals of socially engaged design.”

Winter 2019

First Place: Neonatal Asphyxia Project

The Neonatal Asphyxia Project’s mission is to design a device that applies hypothermia therapy to mitigate the effects of asphyxia in neonates born in low-resource communities.


Here’s what the judges had to say:

“This team has a very thorough approach to understanding the context of rural India and the challenges the clinic they are working with face.”

“The team has been in contact with their stakeholders at the neonatal in the clinic, and they have involved multiple proxy stakeholders and experts to inform their design iterations.”

“Extremely technically sound, thanks in part to the feedback of the clinic. The team has gone through several iterations to ensure their product is going to meet the need of the clinic. ”

“I think this team really embodies the goals of socially engaged design and the way in which it’s possible to involve so many stakeholders in the development of a product. It is clear that their partners have been involved in the process at every point and will continue to be as they evolve and improve the product.”


Fall 2018

Special thanks to the judges who make the Socially Engaged Design Awards possible: Charlie Michaels, Matt Pirone, Scott TenBrink, Robert Loweth, Jeff Plott, Deb Mexicotte, Alissa Talley-Pixley, Ilka Rodriguez-Calero, Randy Schwemmin, Danyelle Reynolds and Caroline Soyars.

First Place: Real Time Phosphorous Sensors

We are working with the Real-Time Water Systems Lab of Ann Arbor to track the changes in phosphorus levels of the Huron River. Our project aims to create a method to autonomously sample water from a water source, accurately measure its phosphorus level, and wirelessly relay that information to the Real-Time Water Systems Lab database. Phosphorus is one of the leading causes of algal blooms. Algal blooms can produce” dead zones”, or hypoxia, a condition where there is less oxygen available in water. These dead zones make the water uninhabitable for fish and unsafe for people. Our project aims to create an automated solution for measuring and tracking phosphorus levels. This will help build a database of information regarding phosphorus levels, which will help to better understand the problem.

Here’s what the judges had to say:

“Thought about the context of the design broadly, even including regional considerations for the product and its ability to be applied to other chemicals in other areas.”

“Team clearly engaged with stakeholders at multiple stages and developed very constructive relationships which benefited the project.”

“A stellar product and process that could be employed tomorrow!  Engaging team, self reflective, excited about the project and its uses.”

“One of the few teams that I felt had developed a true co-design partnership with their sponsor/user, design has clear social impact.”

Honorable Mentions

Non-Invasive Device to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis in Low-Resource Settings

Every year, there are approximately 10 million cases of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a dangerous and potentially deadly medical condition. Venous thromboembolism is a condition in which a blood clot forms most often in the deep veins of the leg, groin or arm, known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and travels in the circulation, lodging in the lungs, known as pulmonary embolism (PE). The primary method to prevent DVT at the Accident and Emergency department at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi, Ghana is the administration of a blood thinner called low-molecular weight heparins (LMWH). While LMWH is a safe and effective prevention method in high risk trauma patients, it is contraindicated in patients with internal bleeding. Although many commercialized devices and patents exist for pneumatic compression devices, current solutions are not be suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to high cost, power supply requirements, short battery life, lack of availability of maintenance and spare parts, and the use of single-use accessories. Thus, there is a need for a non-invasive method to prevent DVT that is suitable for low resource settings. This project was identified in collaboration with clinicians at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Ghana and the University of Michigan.

BLUElab Thailand: Mae Chan Flood Mitigation Initiative

Our project unites students from multiple disciplines at the University of Michigan in pursuit of creating sustainable solutions to flood mitigation in our partner district of Mae Chan, Thailand. This past summer, we manufactured an original water-jet nozzle capable of removing the sediment that blocks the sewer drainage pipes in Mae Chan. After a month-long needs assessment in 2017 and a prototyping feedback trip in 2018, we co-founded the PURPLElab Student Organization of Chiang Mai University students. We strive to co-design by continuing to collaborate with Mae Chan stakeholders, Chiang Mai University students/faculty as well as the Center for Socially-Engaged Design and University of Michigan faculty.  


Postpartum hemorrhage (PPH) is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality in the developing world. It is defined as blood loss following vaginal delivery that exceeds 500 mL or any amount of blood loss that poses a health risk for the patient. Current methods of estimating blood loss vary, and the most commonly used method, visual estimation, has been known to result in significant underestimation. Failure to diagnose PPH due to inaccurate estimations can affect patient treatment and monitoring. Devices designed specifically for blood collection and measurement are not suited for low-resource settings because they are unsustainable, inaccurate, or not easy to use. Based on a two-month clinical immersion at KATH and KBTH, we have co-established with our clinical mentors that there is a need for a device that accurately quantifies blood loss up to 4 hours after vaginal delivery to diagnose primary PPH. The project goal is to create a low-cost and accurate blood loss measurement device for easy use after vaginal deliveries in low-resource settings.

Project MESA

Despite being highly preventable with regular screening tests to identify pre-cancerous conditions, cervical cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer among women in developing countries, where it causes almost 200,000 deaths each year. Nicaragua has the highest mortality rate from cervical cancer in Latin America. We have spent the last 10 years building relationships with partners in Nicaragua to work together to build a portable gynecological exam table that best fits the needs of our end users. Our team works with our clinic partners in Nicaragua to test and evaluate our prototypes and gain continuous feedback on our design and its functionality. Our beta prototype has been in clinical use in Nicaragua for nearly two years, which has helped us engage directly with both the clinicians and the women in rural regions to understand their specific needs and concerns. The feedback we have collected from clinicians has directly informed the iterations of our design and has led us to our current prototype.

Participating Teams

BLUElab Thailand – Mae Chan Flood Mitigation Initiative
Xondas Levitating Lamp (Floating Lamp)
Geographical Location Entity Linking
Smart Pipe
Northrop Grumman Opioid Analytics
Real Time Phosphorus Sensor
Neonatal Asphyxia Project
Project MESA
Project Medusa (Hydra)
Non-Invasive Device to Prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis in Low-Resource Settings
At-Home Hand Rehabilitation Device
Pure L&G: Modular Plant Design for Natural Gas Processing
3D Printed Eyeglass Frames
Library Occupancy Detection System

Winter 2018

Special thanks to the judges who make the Socially Engaged Design Awards possible: Jen Chizek, Christie Donahue, Aliya Jawad, Pauline Khan, Jeff Plott, Caroline Soyars, and Ann Verhey-Henke

First Place: Mint

In developing a novel securement device, Mint seeks to ensure the comfort and safety of the world’s newest and tiniest patients during a critical time of their lives.

These students ‘left the room’ big time! Due to user testing, the group also showed awareness of where their product could use improvement in design and aesthetics, which is their next challenge to tackle.
The students… showed passion, awareness of the marketplace/needs, and clear positioning of “user-first” design. This group had knowledge of the context their project is going into, and a humble but capable approach that allowed stakeholders voices to shape the product.

Mint team members in front of their poster and prototype

Honorable Mentions

Ichorvane Mosquito Patch

Hard-to-find veins are a universal healthcare problem, but our team’s overall focus is on creating a solution that will work on people of all skin colors. Our need was initially identified by our clients while working in a Ugandan hospital, so use in a low-resource setting is also a focus of our project.

Great consideration of manufacturing in the testing setting.
Outstanding use of methods throughout the entire design process! I was especially impressed by the impact of concept generation as well as the utilization of proxy testers.

Clearly a challenging problem and a unique solution prototype.

Mobility Device Improvements: Wheelchair for Soccer

Our project consists of the development of a system to “kick” a soccer ball on grassy terrain, and block the ball from rolling under the chair so the user can participate in a typical soccer game.

The team did a great job considering how the device would impact the child’s engagement with peers. In addition to taking the child’s other activities into account when designing the user interface, the team also considered other individuals with similar mobility challenges during their design, not just the one child (ex: made device universal/interchangeable with other wheelchairs.

From Waste to Wasted: Misadventures in Sustainable Vodka Production

Misadventure & Co., a start-up company in San Diego, CA, diverts expired baked goods from landfills and uses them as the feedstock to produce vodka. To investigate whether this production process is more sustainable, a life-cycle analysis (LCA) was performed comparing it to that of another small-scale vodka distillery that uses local virgin wheat as its feedstock, and a large-scale commercial vodka distillery that ships its wheat over long distances.

High quality results that could educate producers and consumers as well as better the improvement.
Excellent construction of problem analysis and solution design based on a deep contextual awareness and comprehensive comparison.

Participating Teams

Gait-Way to Therapy: Dynamic Standing Table for Parkinson’s Disease Research
Off-Grid Electricity Generation for a Residential Community in Liberia
Team Aquador: Sustainable Water Treatment
Heartthrobs: Improved Tubing Connector for Extracorporeal Blood Transport
From Waste to Wasted: Misadventures in Sustainable Vodka Production
Ichorvane Mosquito Patch
Mobility Device Improvements: Wheelchair for Soccer
Process Model for Influencing Sustainable Design Through Biomimicry
LCA of a Solar-Powered Battery
ME 589: Wipe or Wash?
Wall-E/Collector Tivan
Livingston Grand County Equestrian Therapeutic Riding Program

Fall 2017

Special thanks to the judges who make the Socially Engaged Design Awards possible: Carey Chesney, Christie Donahue, Pauline Khan, Deb Mexicotte, Charlie Michaels, Jeff Plott, Randy Schwemmin, and Caroline Soyars

First Place: Second-Line Postpartum Hemorrhage Treatment Method for Low-Resource Settings

A treatment method for postpartum hemorrhage due to uterine atony was selected and defined in Ghana using design ethnography methods during the GHDI Program immersion experience. Observations and feedback informed the creation of user requirements and continue to guide the design process.

Demonstrated a thorough understanding of the need, partners, and users. They presented a contextually-relevant concept with a high-quality prototype and simulator. This team also comprised of 3 students who had participated in Socially Engaged Design training throughout the Winter 2017 semester, and spent 8 weeks on the field site in Kumasi and Accra, Ghana.
GHDI Team in front of their postpartum hemorrhage poster

Honorable Mentions

BLUElab India Project

Our main mission is to co-design a technology that is not only sustainable, but also culturally appropriate for the community members we work with in Gujarat, India.

SI 618: Music Ensemble: A Tool for Musicians



Nicaragua has the highest cervical cancer mortality rate in the Americas. Although preventable, rural women die because of lack of access to quality gynecological screenings. We enable clinicians to conduct more accurate and frequent examinations by supplying gynecological tables with a sanitary, regulated, and comfortable environment.

Participating Teams

Preventing Pressure Sores in Immobile Patients in Low-Resource Settings
Second-Line Postpartum Hemorrhage Treatment Method for Low-Resource Settings
Assistant Device for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Technological Intervention for Changing Recycling Behaviors at University of Michigan
BLUElab Thailand
Strange Encounters: A Location-Aware Content-Based Social Network
Music Ensemble: A Tool for Musicians
Easy Eating (E2)
Design for America
M-HEAL Solar Fridge
BLUElab India Project
Neonatal Asphyxia Project
Homemade Genius
Chelsea Senior Center
BLUElab Biogas International

Winter 2017

Special thanks to the judges who make the Socially Engaged Design Awards possible: Christie Donahue, Aliya Jawad, Deb Mexicotte, Charlie Michaels, Jeff Plott, Randy Schwemmin, and Maria Young

Established Team Award: M-HEAL Project MESA

We have spent the last 7 years building relationships with partners in Nicaragua to work together to design a portable gynecological exam table that best fits the needs of our end users. We are at the final stages of prototyping and are preparing for our pilot launch in Nicaragua.
Erik Thomas in front of poster and prototype of gynecological table

Emerging Team Award: Eden’s Team

We implemented human-centered design processes and tools to ensure our product is beautiful, productive, and effective in increasing Eden’s independence as a wheelchair user.

Honorary Mentions


Team Exotein presented their cricket protein-based chocolate beverage developed for their chemical engineering capstone design project. Their project addressed the environmental impact of traditional animal-based protein production methods by sourcing protein for a protein shake from insects, which are far less harmful to raise.

Make-A-Thon Bus Transportation

“The Team, The Team, The Team” demonstrated their driverless bus after a 48-hour design sprint at Make-A-Thon 2017. They considered context and features for accommodating diverse users, alert pedestrians, and navigate a miniature city.
Testing driverless model prototyping in miniature city

Participating Teams

Eden’s Team
Watchful but Safe Eyes on Baby: A Safe Monitor
Design of a Small-Scale Anaerobic Digester to Treat Aquacultural Wastes in Michigan
Shear Stress on Patient Ovarian Cancer Cells
Make-A-Thon Bus Transportation