The 2018 Challenge


What would you design to make the everyday accessible for all?

Nearly 56.7 million people in America are challenged by the environments in which they live and work.* While great strides have been made to design for accessibility, many of our everyday tasks and surroundings still remain a challenge for people of varying abilities. This is where designers (and you!) step in. Designers are creative problem solvers who work to improve all aspects of daily life. They design solutions that eliminate barriers and improve access for all.

The 2018 National High School Design Competition challenges high school students around the country to make the everyday—place, process, or object—accessible for all. Be ambitious, innovative, and bold! Identify a place, process, or object that you use often; identify a problem that makes it less accessible for people with disabilities; and design a solution for this problem. Create a sketch of your idea and describe how your design addresses the challenge. Review how to enter and use these resources to start thinking like a designer!

*According to a 2010 US Census Bureau Report

Who can enter

The design competition is open to all teens ages 13 through 19 years old who are high school students in 9th through 12th grades, or who are homeschooled students working toward a high school degree anywhere in the United States. You can enter as an individual or as a team of up to three people. Review the competition rules and conditions for complete information on eligibility.

The Selection Process

The National High School Design Competition is organized in two stages. In Stage One, competitors will create and submit their design ideas per the entry requirements. Cooper Hewitt will select three finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition. All Stage One entries will be judged anonymously.

During Stage Two, the three finalists will finalize their designs according to the requirements in the National High School Design Competition: Stage Two Brief document, which will be sent only to the selected finalists. Then, finalists will participate in a series of mentoring activities and travel to New York City to present their designs in person to the judges!


THE COMPETITION ENTRY DEADLINE OF February 12, 2018, 11:59 p.m. (ET) HAS PASSED. NO ADDITIONAL SUBMISSIONS ARE BEING ACCEPTED. Please email us at for information about next year’s competition.

Selection Criteria

Entries will be evaluated for overall design excellence according to the following criteria:

  • Innovation: How creative and original is your design?
  • Impact: Large or small, what is the impact of your design?
  • Relevance: Does your design address the identified everyday challenge for your intended user?
  • Communication: How clear is your design idea from your sketch and question responses?

Awards and Prizes

Winner (1):

  • Trip to New York City during National Design Week to attend Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair on October 16, 2018, where the winner will explore college and career opportunities in design with some of the country’s leading designers and representatives from design colleges and universities.
  • Trip to visit Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis in summer 2018 to learn more about Target’s role in design within the health and wellness space.
  • If the winner entered the competition as part of a class assignment, the winner’s teacher will also receive the opportunity to participate in one of Cooper Hewitt’s nationwide Design Thinking professional development workshops.
  • Winning design will be featured at Cooper Hewitt during National Design Week (October 13–21, 2018), and on

Finalists (3):

  • Trip to attend the Mentor Weekend in Austin, TX on May 5–6, 2018 to finalize their designs with mentors and to review their presentations before meeting with the judges. Mentors will speak with each of the finalists via phone to provide initial feedback prior to Mentor Weekend.
  • Trip to New York City to participate in the final Judging Weekend on June 2–3, 2018 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present their designs to the judges.
  • Finalists’ designs will be featured in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers on

Finalist trips are required, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for each finalist and one parent or guardian. If finalists are part of a team, one parent/guardian chaperone will accompany the team. Winner trips are optional, and domestic travel and accommodations will be provided for the winner and one parent or guardian. Please review the competition rules and conditions for complete details.