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Student Showcase Archive

Royal College of Art students return from CERN as Grand Challenge winners

Four student groups from the Royal College of Art have returned from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, CERN’s innovation space, IdeasSquare where they had the opportunity to pitch and demonstrate their prototypes to address solutions to global challenges.

The four projects were winners of the Grand Challenge, the largest multidisciplinary project undertaken by RCA and CERN. The Grand Challenge involves 374 students from across the School of Design mixed into 74 interdisciplinary teams.

The Grand Challenge demonstrates how innovative and disruptive technologies can address the world’s most intractable challenges by combining science with design. Through collaborating with the RCA, scientists from CERN witnessed the power of design to explore and develop innovative applications for technologies through disruptive models of interdisciplinary innovation.

The winning projects:

  • CureScan aims to combat the risks of consuming dangerous counterfeit medication by empowering consumers to tell the difference between unsafe and safe medication. The students were: Cristiane Chaves, Yaqui Cheng, Frederick Phua, Pinja Piipponen and Xiaoyang Zhao.
  • Knowtrition is a smart diet system that supports users in maintaining a well-balanced diet to prevent potential chronic diseases. The students were: Yi-Fan Hsieh, Agata Juszkiewicz, Anta Muangkote and Zhiyi Zhang.
  • Nari is a low-cost menstrual cup sanitisation device for women in rural India to use safely and subtly, on-the-go. The students were: Helen Benz, Malvika Bhasin, Ruoxing Long, Yichen Shu and Rowan Vyvyan.
  • PLOC is an interlocking brick-tile made from a versatile mould using plastic reprocessed from the established recycling industry in Dharavi, a Mumbai slum. The students were: Oliver Bassnett, Irene Liao, Eric Saldanha, Xiaohui Wang and Megan Willis.

Dean of the School of Design, Professor Paul Anderson, said:
‘It’s the largest multidisciplinary project CERN has ever conducted and to have them choose to collaborate with the Royal College of Art is a real privilege. We have so much to learn from each other, our starting point as designers is perhaps different to scientists but we’re all trying to meet in the middle to work out solutions. For that reason, this project has been a fascinating learning experience for our students and will equip them with skills they can use in the next phase of their work.’

Head of Innovation and Development at Idea Square, CERN, Dr Markus Nordberg, said:
‘CERN wanted to work with the Royal College of Art as it is one of the best known cross-disciplinary institutions that bring together different forms of artists, engineers, architects, and designers. The biggest takeaway for me is how we can really get people who originally come from different backgrounds to work together. Seeing it work so well at RCA has been a very inspiring experience for us and we really would like to take it to the next level.’

The Grand Challenge involves students devising workable solutions addressing four themes: Health and Wellbeing; Digital Disruption; Energy, Infrastructure and the Environment; and Social and Economic Disparity. Tutors from the RCA and CERN support the students throughout the four-week process.


A film of the RCA and CERN project can be viewed here and a description of all projects and images can be found here. If you would like further information or more images please contact Kim Pham, RCA Press Office on t: +44 (0) 20 7590 4127, e: [email protected].   

Notes to Editors

About the RCA

The Royal College of Art, the internationally renowned art and design university, provides students with unrivalled opportunities to deliver art and design projects that transform the world.

A small, specialist and research-intensive postgraduate university based in the heart of London, the RCA is a high performing institution, a radical traditionalist in a fast paced world.

The RCA's approach is founded on the premise that art, design creative thinking, science, engineering and technology must all collaborate to solve today's global challenges.

The University employs around 1000 professionals from around the world – professors, researchers, art and design practitioners, advisers and visiting lecturers – to teach and develop students in 30 academic programmes.

RCA students are exposed to new knowledge in a way that encourages them to experiment. Working across scientific and technical canvases and beyond set boundaries, RCA students seek to solve real-world problems.

The RCA runs joint courses with Imperial College London and the Victoria & Albert Museum. InnovationRCA, the university's centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship, incubation and business support, has helped over 50 RCA business ideas become a reality that has led to the creation of over 600 UK jobs.

Alumni include David Adjaye, Christopher Bailey, Monster Chetwynd, David Hockney, Tracey Emin, Thomas Heatherwick, Lubaina Himid, Clare Waight Keller and Rose Wylie.

The RCA was named the world's leading university of art and design in the QS World Rankings 2019 for the fifth consecutive year.