The 2019 Challenge



The modern industrial age gave way to designs that vastly improved human enterprise through technology, yet there were unintended and destructive consequences for the environment. We can no longer design against the laws of nature merely to suit our own ends. This is where designers (and you!) can help. Designers today are thinking more intentionally and considering carefully the potential ecological impacts of every design decision. Using nature as a guide, they design solutions to global problems that improve our world.

The 2019 National High School Design Competition challenges high school students around the country to design (or redesign) a nature-based solution to a global problem. Be ambitious, innovative, and bold! 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!

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
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!


FEBRUARY 11, 2019, 11:59 P.M. (ET)

The deadline for the 2019 National High School Design Competition has passed. To be notified of the 2020 competition, email us at

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 use nature as a guide to address the identified 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 15, 2019, 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 2019 to learn more about Target’s role in design.
  • 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.

Finalists (3):

  • Trip to attend Mentor Weekend in Spring 2019 for a dive into the design process, finalize designs with mentors, and review 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 Judging Weekend on June 8–9, 2019 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present designs to the judges.
  • Finalists’ designs will be featured in a special online exhibition celebrating the creativity of promising young designers on

Honorable Mentions:

  • The designs of all finalists and honorable mentions will be displayed at Cooper Hewitt and on to celebrate the creativity of promising young designers.


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.