The UK & Ireland Chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE), along with EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub (CIMComp) have announced the launch of the “Design and Make” competition: a national event inviting companies and universities across the UK and Ireland to showcase their composites expertise. 

Participants are required to design and manufacture a scaled single-deck composite footbridge, capable of supporting a central load. This challenge requires extensive research into cross-sectional designs and will identify the one with the highest failure load relative to the weight. 

This exciting joint initiative will take place at the prestigious Advanced Engineering Show, held at Birmingham’s NEC on the 1 November 2023. Sponsored by SHD Composites, Instron UK, and the National Composites Centre, the show will host an awards ceremony with a prize to the team with the winning structure. 

An in-person launch event will be held at the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol on 20 September 2023. The gathering will give participants the opportunity to network, connect with like-minded individuals, and form the basis of a bridge-building team. In support of the competition, SHD Composites will generously provide training on material processing, as well as material kits for teams to begin preliminary designs. Attendees will also enjoy an enlightening tour of the NCC and a social event to extend networking opportunities. 

The key competition guidelines are as follows: 

  • Teams must consist of at least 2 members, up to a maximum of 4 
  • Participants may include undergraduate, postgraduate/postdoctoral researchers, and early-career engineers working in the industry 
  • Entries are open to all universities and companies in the UK and Ireland 
  • Each team is allowed one entry. However, universities/companies may submit multiple teams if they wish 
  • At least one team member must be present during the Advanced Engineering Show on 1st November 2023 
  • All bridges must feature a single, continuous deck suitable for a scaled person (figurine) to walk from one end to the other 
  • Bridges must be at least 650 mm in length to suit the test fixture (see Figure 1). No additional materials can be bonded to the bridge ends to increase its length 
  • The bridge’s unsupported length must be 600 mm (distance between simple support rollers) 
  • The bridge should have a maximum width of 150 mm and a minimum width of 100 mm. Participants should carefully consider the deck width when trimming the bridge 
  • The section height must not exceed 60 mm to ensure the bridge’s deck remains within the fixture support guides 
  • Bridges must be manufactured using only the materials provided by the sponsors. The use of substitute materials will not be permitted 

The performance of the bridges will be assessed at the Advanced Engineering Show before the awards ceremony. Judging criteria will include: 

  • The maximum applied load recorded at failure and normalised by the mass of the bridge 
  • The specific stiffness will be used as a criterion, should multiple bridges exceed the full-scale load of the testing frame 

Additionally, all participating teams will be required to submit a 1-minute video presentation highlighting the design and manufacturing decisions taken to produce their bridge. The video presentations will be evaluated based on depth of technical content, effective use of images and/or video clips, clarity and flow of the video, creativity, and relevance to the bridge entry. 

In light of the challenge ahead, SAMPE UK is offering a free annual membership of SAMPE UK and Ireland to all participants who attend the Advanced Engineering Show in person. Further information about the UK and Ireland Chapter can be found at 

To register for the Advanced Engineering Show, please visit 

For more information on the “Design and Make” competition, please contact Lee Harper at