2019 Design Competition

The 2019 Design 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 the potential ecological impacts of every design decision carefully. Using nature as a guide, they design solutions to global problems that improve our world.

The 2019 National High School Design Competition: Nature by Design took inspiration from
Nature—Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial. The prompt challenged high school students around the country to design (or redesign) a nature-based solution to a global problem.

The Selection Process

 In Stage One, participants identified a global issue and designed a solution to the problem. Participants created a sketch of their ideas and described how the design addressed the challenge. Cooper Hewitt selected three finalists to proceed to Stage Two of the Design Competition through an anonymous judging based on the criteria of innovation, impact, relevance, and communication.

During Stage Two, the three finalists furthered their designs using the Stage Two Brief document and participated in a mentor phone call during April 2019 for initial feedback. Finalists then traveled to Portland to attend a Mentor Weekend on May 11–12, 2019. There they took a deeper dive into the design process, learned more about solving challenges, more about the design field, and worked on their presentations for Judging Weekend during their visit at the adidas headquarters. Then the three finalist teams traveled to New York City for Judging Weekend on June 8–9, 2019 to visit Cooper Hewitt and present in person to the esteemed judges.

Competition Teacher Resources

Interested in using the 2019 challenge in your classroom? Explore these resources:

Design skills aren’t just for designers! Explore some of the ways to incorporate design into your classroom, visit the Smithsonian Learning Lab for great teaching resources.

Get information on the current Design Competition here!

To be notified of the 2020 competition, email us at

The 2019 Judges

A diverse panel of creative experts met with the finalists in New York City to review and discuss their designs, and selected the winner on June 9, 2019.

2019 judges were:

  • Sigi Ahl, Creative Director, Waste No More
  • Barbara A. Ambrose, Director of Laboratory Research, Associate Curator in Plant Genomics, The New York Botanical Garden
  • Caroline Baumann, Director, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
  • Charles Reilly, Senior Staff Scientist, Wyss Institute at Harvard University
  • Theo Dimitrasopoulos, Design Researcher, Terreform ONE
  • Todd Waterbury, Chief Creative Officer, Target Corporation
  • Danni Washington, TV Host at Xploration Station: Nature Knows Best
  • Craig L. Wilkins, Senior Lecturer, Architecture and Urban Planning the Wilkins project, University of Michigan

The 2019 Mentors

The finalists attended Mentor Weekend at the adidas on May 5–6, 2019. The 2019 mentors were:

  • Harold Arandia Jr., Senior Designer, U.S. Sports, Baseball, adidas
  • Prad Indrakumar, Principal Concept Designer, adidas
  • Allison Nassif, Principal Technical Designer, Target

The 2019 Competition Winners

Congratulations to Daniela Contreras and Lucas Dunoyer, seniors at Design and Architecture Senior High School in Miami, FL, for being named the winning team of the 2019 National High School Design Competition! Watch the presentations and explore the projects of all the finalists and honorable mention recipients below.

The winning design was featured at Cooper Hewitt and at cooperhewitt.org. The winners had the opportunity to learn more about design through inspiring mentoring opportunities:

  • Trip to New York City during National Design Week to attend Cooper Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair.
  • Trip to Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis in summer 2019.

The 2019 Finalists

The finalists were announced online on April 11, 2019. The finalists are: Daniela Contreras and Lucas Dunoyer, of Miami, FL; Bella Jacobs, of Charlotte, NC; and Marisol McEwan and Teshawn Sinclair, of Miami, FL. Congratulations!

    The 2019 Honorable Mentions

    Cooper Hewitt announced 13 Honorable Mentions whose designs were featured with the finalists in a poster exhibition at the museum.

    • John Begley, age 16, Paris Kiehl, age 16, and Sophie Kiehl, age 16
      Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, CO
    • Andres Chavez, age 17, and Nicholas Navarro, age 17
      Glen A Wilson High School, Hacienda Heights, CA
    • Abby Doll, age 18 and Grace MacDonald, age 17
      Menlo School, Atherton, CA
    • Heather Holtgreive, age 18
      Peak to Peak Charter School, Lafayette, CO
    • Avni Jain, age 16, Rhea Sharma, age 18, and Colleen Thompson, age 18
      Eden Prairie High School, Eden Prairie, MN
    • Lilah Lichtman, age 16
      The Park School of Baltimore, Pikesville, MD
    • Belle Lim, age 17
      Great Neck North High School, Great Neck, NY
    • Isaac Liu, age 16 and Ziyao (Samantha) Su, age 16
      Orange County School of the Arts, Santa Ana, CA
    • Alan Lomba, age 16, and, Erik Sande, age 16, and Julian Sarria, age 16
      Design and Architecture Senior High School, Miami, FL
    • Vega Lund, age 16
      Nova High School, Seattle, WA
    • Bryson Maneul, age 18 and Lindsey Millerd, age 17
      Waipahu High School, Waipahu, HI
    • Payton Shattuck, age 18
      Design and Architecture Senior High School, Miami, FL
    • Sam Suchin, age 16
      Pikesville High School, Pikesville, MD