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Washing machine challenge laid down to students

11th October 2021
Mick Elliott

Electrocomponents has launched a student design challenge in partnership with The Washing Machine Project, a social enterprise dedicated to designing, developing, and distributing low-cost, water-saving, manual washing machines to provide displaced and low-income people with an accessible, off-grid alternative to handwashing clothes.

Hosted on the DesignSpark engineering platform, the People.Planet.Product challenge is an opportunity for students to apply innovative thinking and practical skills to the ongoing development of The Washing Machine Project’s first manual crank-handle machine, the Divya, and help make a positive difference to people’s lives around the world.

Competition entrants have the option to design a solution focused on one of three different areas:

  • People: Encourage and empower people to use the Divya around existing cultural norms. The solution can be based on a specific cultural environment, and/or can be about the improvement of the technology or the implementation of it.
  • Planet: Filter out greywater and microplastics before water is drained out of the Divya, enabling users to maximise water reuse/recapture for washing, cooking, cleaning, or agricultural farming.
  • Product: Encourage better posture and interaction of the Divya. The solution could include overall improvements of efficiencies of the product such as weight, portability, maintainability, and usability, or focus on a specific design point.

Entrants are required to submit a 1000-word account of their idea, explaining how it solves the real-world problem they have chosen, supported by a one-minute video or audio summary. Originality and feasibility of the solution will be key considerations.

Finalists will go forward to present their solutions to a panel of distinguished judges at a live virtual final. To support the finalists, and to bring their ideas to life, Electrocomponents is offering a £250 basket of products stocked by RS Components, as well as coaching support from a product design engineer and a graphic designer, a presentation masterclass, plus free add-on modules for the company’s DesignSpark Mechanical design software.

Three winners will be selected at the live final and receive £1000 in RS products or a cash equivalent to support their prototype development, plus access to a business mentor and a knowledge session with The Washing Machine Project founder, Navjot Sawhney.

Isabella Mascarenhas, Vice President, Grass Roots Education at Electrocomponents, said: “This latest initiative with The Washing Machine Project, our chosen social enterprise partner, is a fantastic opportunity for students to innovate and practise their skills in a project that will have a life-changing, empowering impact on the lives of thousands of women and children in global communities.”

Research conducted by The Washing Machine Project with 1,500 families in 12 countries shows that 99% of the people conducting this task are women and girls as young as seven years old.

Deadline for submissions is Monday 18 October 2021 at 10:00 am BST.

Finalists will be announced on Friday 29 October 2021

The live virtual final will be staged on Friday 26 November 2021

To be eligible for entry to the People.Product.Planet design challenge, all applicants must be aged 18 or over and be studying a full- or part-time course.

For more details, visit:

The People.Product.Planet design challenge is supported by Elvie, a pioneer in female-first innovation in tech to improve the lives of women around the world, and SharkNinja, a leader in innovation, devoted to developing 5-star consumer rated products that make life easier in the home.

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