COVID-19 Design Challenge

April 9, 2020 | 1:12 pm

Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation COVID-19 Design Challenge: Enabling our communities to safely re-open and rebuild

The UC Berkeley Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation invites students to participate in a three-week team design challenge to develop solutions that address the COVID-19 pandemic and the future challenges it will pose for our communities. The event will be conducted entirely online. Once launched, teams will interact and collaborate using virtual mediums of their choice. UC Berkeley faculty and staff will be available to assist teams using both scheduled and drop-in remote office hour sessions. Teams will present their final solutions as part of the Spring 2020 Jacobs Hall Design Showcase (virtual). A panel of experts/judges will evaluate the final solution from each, with the intent of helping teams make connections and scale solutions. They will also award one first prize of $1000 and two runner-up prizes of $500.


We believe that our community of makers, designers, engineers, and enthusiasts can make a profound impact by helping to create solutions that will impact our lives when we transition out of the current shelter-in-place order and rebuild from the current challenges posed by COVID-19 [1,2,3].

We invite teams to consider a range of topics, including (but not limited to):

  • Reducing and Preventing Infection:
    • How might we minimize virus transmission in large gatherings or in specific settings (e.g., schools, travel, shopping)?
    • How can population-scale testing methods (antigen or antibody) be implemented most effectively as they become available?
    • How might we minimize exposure for vulnerable populations (e.g., pre-existing medical conditions, economically disadvantaged, older age) while enabling them to participate in society?
    • How might we continue to protect essential community workers (e.g., delivery drivers and grocery store workers)?
    • How can we help to minimize the future impact of COVID-19 in the developing world, particularly in countries where a peak in infections may be some time away?
  • Thriving:
    • How might we support individuals’ health and wellness (e.g., nutrition, mental health, safety) amid social distancing conditions?
    • How might we ensure high-quality, equitable education under social distancing conditions?
  • Ramping back up:
    • How might we help people get back to work safely?
    • How might we help small businesses struggling to stay afloat?
    • How might we prepare for future intermittent periods of social distancing?
    • What will travel look like, including, e.g., local public transportation, and international air travel?
    • How might we assess the amount of risk we are willing to accept in order to restore part or all of our way of life?


• Information and Networking Session
Monday 4/13 @5 pm (Zoom and Slack)

Need a team? Want to find out more about potential project topics? Have a good idea you want to pitch to your peers? Join us on Monday April 13th @5pm for an information session and networking hour with possible collaborators. We will moderate breakout rooms around high-level topics to help you learn more about possible projects and find collaborators. We have also set up a Slack workspace to support dialogue around team formation and project ideas. Slack workspace open now, click to join!

Miss the Info Session? The slides from this event can be found here, as well as the Zoom recording

• Team Intake Form (Required)
Due Thursday 4/16 11:59pm (Google Survey) 

Once you have formed a team, and identified a tentative topic, you will need to submit a brief form to communicate important information to us. Note: only one intake form is required per team.

The Intake Form can be found here

• Team Launch

Friday 4/17

We will confirm your participation in the event and provide your team with additional information regarding the Design Challenge, including times for office hour slots with our design specialists and faculty.

• Challenge Event

4/17 – 5/6

Teams will collaborate and periodically be asked to check-in with project mentors/design specialists (date options to be communicated). Limited physical prototyping support from Jacobs Institute staff may be available for teams, as recommended by mentors, under the COVID-19 prototyping program. Teams will share their final solutions during the virtual Jacobs Design Showcase on May 6th during RRR week. A collection of design experts/judges will evaluate each project, with the intent of helping teams make connections and scale solutions. They will also award one first prize of $1000 and two runner-up prizes of $500. An overview of the challenge schedule is below:

  • 4/17: Team Launch
  • 4/22: Design Check-In I 
  • 4/29: Design Check-In II 
  • 5/6: Final Deliverables & Jacobs Project Showcase

A note to our community: It has been inspiring to watch and support the many ongoing activities that seek to design and develop immediate solutions to aid in the fight against COVID-19. There has perhaps never been so much engagement around a single topic across many disciplines of science, engineering, and technology at one time. We recognize the role that our facilities and community can play in helping to address many issues relating to this pandemic. If you want to contribute in a way that is not encapsulated by this event, we invite you to join our community page here.

 We encourage interested makers to browse existing approved designs in several places and use them where they exist. For example, the NIH 3D Print Exchange identifies 3D printable designs that have been successfully evaluated in a clinical setting. Anyone can contribute designs via the national America Makes portal, which is coordinating the NIH, VA and FDA to evaluate and, where necessary, approve designs. We will continue to support these immediate COVID-19 research activities (e.g., prototyping personal protective equipment (PPE), and medical equipment/supplies) that are led by UC Berkeley principal investigators.

For more information regarding prototyping support at Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab, please look here. Projects involving possible clinical applications must follow the protocol approved by campus outlined here.

Thank you all for your passion and commitment to helping our society!