2023 Sustainable Design Thinking Program

Students Solving Today’s Problems through a Time-tested Practice

The future of sustainability just got brighter! From 1-9 June 2023, a dynamic group of 31 students selected from HKUST and HKUST(GZ) came together to tackle real-world sustainability challenges. With diverse academic (undergraduate and postgraduates from all schools and hubs) and cultural backgrounds (5+ nationalities), these students identified innovative solutions for issues like water, food waste, wellbeing, recycling and energy on both campuses.

The Sustainable Design Thinking Certificate Program, funded by the Tung Foundation, was an intensive 9-day training that included team-building activities, design thinking and life cycle thinking workshops, stakeholder interviews, as well as visits to the Guangzhou Automotive Group Science Museum, Guangzhou city centre, campus tours and Hong Kong Science Park visit. The program not only developed the participants' design thinking mindsets but also fostered lifelong friendships between members.

The climax of the program was on 9 June when the groups presented their final solutions through a 3-minute video and roadshow to VIPs. Each team demonstrated how their creative and innovative solutions addressed sustainability issues, with measurable impact and cost-efficiency.

Prof TC Pong - Vice-President for Administration and Business, HKUST shared with the students at the ceremony, “We are showcasing that under the notion of unified HKUST with complementary campuses, the power of synergy to nurture and unleash the potential of our talented youth.”

Prof Lionel Ni - President, HKUST (GZ) expressed that, “Design Thinking is a powerful problem-solving approach that encourages creativity, collaboration and empathy to develop innovative solutions to complex challenges. Combining Sustainability and Design thinking will create lots of opportunities for our future.”

Mr Alan Tung Lieh-Sing, Trustee of The Tung Foundation also shared with students about how he sees design thinking and sustainability from a business point of view and emphasized the importance of shared responsibility.


Ideas from Top 3 Winning Teams:

Winner: Water wise - A dual intervention to save water on campus through physical and behavioral intervention. This involves using aerators with two water saving options, LED light alerts and displays water consumption data on interactive dashboard to track progress and create competitions between halls for water saving.

2nd place: Green Fit - This solution aims to turn calories into kilowatts (“Active Sustainability”) from the turing gears from sports and gym equipment on campus by storing the energy in battery and transferring it to the grid. This exercise will generate carbon credits that can be redeemed for benefits like bus tickets, coupons etc and motivate people to exercise.

3rd place: Intelligent Power Management - As 95% of CO2 emissions of HKUST come from electricity, this IoT solution aims to enhance the smart electricity consumption meters in buildings through budget tracking, booking features for remote control of appliances, and explain power consumption through real-life activities to raise awareness. Smart alerts will also remind users of sustainable behavior with tips to improve and reward systems.

The winning teams will have the opportunity to continue working on their projects and may receive a budget for implementation on the campuses. This program was a huge success, and we can't wait to see the positive impact these students will bring on our campuses!


We also had individual awards to encourage the participations of students.

Best Engagement Award: Natalie Chong and Tong Yuan

Best Photography Award: Leslie Anne Yasis

Best Influencer Award: Gayathri Arivuselvam


Here are what the students of the program have to say:

Jason Ong:

"This trip to Guangzhou showed me the technological advancements of science and technology research. Starting with HKUST(GZ) and having only seen it on video and virtually taken, I have never expected to have visited the campus so early in my academic years. Furthermore, seeing it in real life was unbelievable as everything felt fake. It felt like the moment I stepped on the campus ground, I entered a metaverse.

Guangzhou Automotive Group Science Museum. It will be turned into a sales gallery. This site visit opened my eyes to how China is eagerly finding ways to reach net zero carbon emissions. With them trying to change all cars in China to be electrical, it is amazing to see how they stand out from others. It is not only cars that focus on achieving net zero but very aspect of people's daily usage of tools."


Gayathri Arivuselvam:

"From Hong Kong to Guangzhou, we embarked on a 9-day journey of innovation and sustainability. This cross-university workshop brought together 32 like-minded individuals, ready to tackle the challenges of our campuses and beyond. We immersed ourselves in the world of sustainable design thinking, fueled by passion and a shared vision for a better future. As we explored Guangzhou, our hearts swelled with inspiration.

Witnessing the real-world impact of sustainable practices ignited a fire within us. Back on campus, we formed diverse teams, pushing the boundaries of creativity to create smart solutions that could transform our surroundings. Beyond the workshops, we forged deep connections and lifelong friendships. Our evenings were filled with laughter and cultural exchanges and the joy of shared experiences. Leaving the workshop, we felt empowered to make a lasting impact. Armed with knowledge and determination, we are ready to shape a more sustainable world."


William Chiu:

“Participating in the design thinking program has been an enriching and transformative learning experience. Collaborating with students from various backgrounds and fields of study has broadened my perspective and exposed me to a diverse range of ideas and approaches. Not only have I expanded my social circle, but I have also forged new connections that I believe will be valuable throughout my academic and professional journey. The program provided me with the opportunity to develop essential project management and design thinking skills, which are highly sought after in today's job market. Additionally, the program served as a much-needed break after a demanding semester, allowing me to rejuvenate and explore my creativity. Without hesitation, I would wholeheartedly recommend this program to my fellow classmates, as it offers a unique and invaluable learning experience that can shape their future endeavors.”


Fung Yau:

"Thank HKUST for organizing this program.  This program provides me a wonderful opportunity to know more about the situation of sustainability at HKUST, and hence suggest ideas/solutions for further enhancing sustainability at HKUST. Also, through this program, I can meet new friends from the CWB campus and have some activities with them, which is a memorable experience!"


Rohit Singh:

“Having the chance to explore Guangzhou and make new friends from both campuses made my time during the program more enjoyable and makes me yearn for more chances to take part in similar programs.”


Shoujian Wang:

“The event was very meaningful to me. I gained first-hand experience with the technology that companies need and how to apply the techniques in papers to solve real-world pain points. This will be very helpful for my future career planning. At the same time, the event provided me with opportunities to communicate with professors and students from the Clear Water Bay campus, giving me a different perspective of inspiration and research ideas from what I have in the Guangzhou campus.”


Tong Yuan:

"Through this event, I learned how the campus operates in daily life, which satisfied my curiosity. I also enjoyed working with my teammates to optimize the living environment and I felt happy during the problem-solving process. I am pleased that our professors are attempting to implement our ideas in practical ways on campus. I am glad to have met new friends and experienced life in Clear Water Bay. Finally, the video poster produced by our team exceeded our expectations. I felt like I learned many different new skills."


We appreciated the efforts of everyone to be part of this learning experiences and build the connections among each other. We look forward to having some of these projects implemented on our campuses to showcase the empowerment of our students. 

For program review, check out our video by clicking here. 

You can also watch the highlight of the final presentation and award presentation ceremony that was held on 9 June 2023.  

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