Common questions

What is the Biodesign Challenge?

The Biodesign Challenge offers teams of art and design students the opportunity to envision future applications of biotechnology in a competition that highlights student work.

The winning teams and their professors will be invited to New York City in June for the Biodesign Challenge Summit, where they will present in front of a wide audience from the art, design, industrial, and academic communities.

What is biodesign?

Biodesign is what we do when we harness and reshape living things for human purposes. Today, the word is often associated with new, precise design practices made possible by genetic engineering and synthetic biology. We are using the word to broadly include other aspects of designing products and processes using living things.

Designing with living things has potentially great advantages over making with nonliving materials for a simple reason: Living things grow and multiply with little energy and without the use of toxic materials. The ability to grow is also one of biology’s defining risks, as engineered living things could grow out of our control.

One of the question biodesigners ask is, can we harness engineered living systems to improve our lives and our environment while mitigating the risks of uncontrolled growth?

Where can I learn more about biodesign?

There are a number of excellent books that explore biodesign and bioart, including:

Who can participate in the Biodesign Challenge?

The Biodesign Challenge is open to students who are participating through a university or high school classroom. Our organizers will work with instructors to enter your school into the competition. Please email info(at)biodesignchallenge(dot)org if you have questions about whether or not your team is eligible to participate.

My school isn't participating: How else can I get involved?

We welcome you to join us at the Biodesign Summit on June 20-21 as an audience participant. Click on the Summit tab for more details. To join BDC for the upcoming year, visit our contact page.

How will entries in BDC be judged?

Student teams are judged according to a set of criteria that are categorized in three areas: Conceptual elegance, presentational strength, and consideration of various cultural and environmental factors. Explore the judging criteria in more detail here.

Who is judging the Biodesign Challenge?

Each class’s instructor and expert consultants (scientists and subject matter specialists who act as mentors and technical experts to the students as they develop their projects) pick the best team to go to the Biodesign Summit.

What is the Biodesign Summit?

In June of each year, the winning team from each school will be invited to New York City for the BDC Summit. The winners will give presentations and showcase their project to museum curators, scientists, professional designers, companies that are interested in design with biology, and the public. Click on the Summit tab to learn more.

Where can I see the work produced for the Biodesign Challenge?

Student projects will be showcased on the Biodesign blog on Popular Science magazine’s website. Work from the winning teams will be displayed at a number of venues, including the Biofabricate conference and museums and galleries (to be announced).

What is Biofabricate?

Identified by Entrepreneur Magazine as “one of the top conferences worth the time and money in 2015 alongside Pop Tech and TED,” Biofabricate is the leading event to focus on incorporating design, biology, and technology in growing our material world. Speakers and exhibitors from the top international labs, companies, and universities showcase their achievements here. The Biodesign Challenge has teamed up with Biofabricate to showcase the best student work at its annual conference.

Who is sponsoring the Biodesign Challenge?

The Biodesign Challenge is sponsored by companies, government agencies, and foundations interested in the intersection of biotechnology and design. Visit Sponsors for details.


Banner image: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bacteria.