Global Challenges Award

The Global Challenges Award allows undergraduate students to participate in experiential learning opportunities providing them with experience in teamwork, leadership, and communication within the greater community, further complementing the education they receive. Through this initiative, students will apply their engineering and design related problem-solving skills in non-conventional settings far beyond the university. By creating the conditions to spark innovative solutions for societal change whether close to McGill or abroad, students will acquire the necessary skills to become tomorrow’s globally minded leaders equipped to solve problems that matter.

Through generous donor support, the McGill Engineering Student Centre (MESC) is providing special funding to offer up to 15 awards of up to $10,000* each. The Faculty recognizes that financial barriers often discourage students from participating in service learning, humanitarian learning, and other types of activities that help to create a better world, but that do not come with a paid wage.

*Funding over $10k may be granted based on project location, scope, etc.

***Applications for Summer 2024 Global Challenges Awards (GCA) are now CLOSED!***

Have your own project in mind? Submit the details here:


Please combine your Letter of Intent, CV/Resume, Budget, and Unofficial Transcript into one single document/file to upload to the application form.

Email us at [at] with any questions!


Or apply to one of these GCA-funded opportunities:

Siendo Naturaleza

Location: Tiracu Valley, Peru, with ~4 weeks remote work at the beginning

Siendo Naturaleza (Being Nature) is an “Amazon Life Project for Life” in the tropical cloud forests of the Tiracu Valley near the city of Tarapoto. we work with the jungle as a laboratory, where we prototype regeneration through agriculture, reforestation, infrastructure, and technical and social systems. The goal of the program is to learn and practice an ecological and a human-centered design approach related to your engineering/architecture practical work.

Please note that while Spanish is not a prerequisite to apply, this is a strong asset. Nonetheless, the most important quality we are seeking in potential visiting students is open-mindedness and adventurous enough to live in the jungle, which includes embracing all beings of our community. Multiple projects are outlined in more detail in the attached document.

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice [at]

More information: Siendo Naturaleza project descriptions


Location: Montreal, QC

The purpose of this project is to facilitate the growth of MycoNurseries through implementing a sensor system and an irrigation system and analyzing further avenues of expansion for MycoNurseries. MycoNurseries currently uses manual methods to analyze humidity, temperature, and other parameters. A sensor and irrigation system would greatly help the non-profit focus its available resources on other important aspects of the operation. Depending on interest, there is the possibility of working on building a website and other communication channels.

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice [at]

More information: PDF icon myconurseries-project.pdf


Location: Montreal, QC

The aim of this project is to explore and develop an automatic garden irrigation system. The garden where the experiment could be carried out is located on the roof of the Quartier des Spectacles at Esplanade Tranquille. It's in the heart of Montreal, close to the Place des Arts metro station. The aim of this type of project is to reduce water wastage, save farmers time, optimize production and secure the harvest.

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice [at]

More information: PDF icon au_lab-project.pdf

Break the Divide

Location: Remote      

The purpose of this project is to evaluate the effectiveness of our current recruiting, administration, and coordination systems necessary to efficiently run our climate education and skills building programs. Break The Divide’s programs respond to widespread feelings of isolation and disconnectedness amongst communities by connecting youth in high schools across Canada to create connections and foster dialogue about climate change as the starting point for community action.        

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice [at]           

More information: PDF icon breakthedivide-project.pdf


Up4 the Challenge

Location: Hybrid, largely remote with possibility of joining in-person workshops in the Greater Toronto Area        

Hours: Flexible (part-time or full-time)

This position is for you if you are interested in an opportunity to empower youth to create positive social change by helping them understand how STEM fits within the human-centred design process. Your goal for this project will be to assist in the creative design of educational programming for youth in grades 7-10 with schools and community-based organizations.     

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest to contact [at]        

More information: PDF icon up4thechallenge-project.pdf


Populus Solidarity Coop           

Location: Remote, option for Hybrid in Montreal, QC             

Populus Solidarity Cooperative is an organization that aims to help co-operatives and non-profits in the social solidarity economy meet their financial and governmental compliance needs by aiding with bookkeeping, financial management, and more. To accomplish this, Populus has endeavoured to create a digital dashboard that takes organization’s unique profile and create reminders for key dates, resources for how to navigate bureaucratic processes, provide funding sources, and more.
Populus is looking for an aspiring software developer interested in supporting the social solidarity economy to help develop this digital dashboard! There’s plenty of opportunity to learn and apply software development skills in this project.           

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice it [at]

More information: PDF icon populus-project.pdf


Paths for People

Location: Edmonton, AB (potential for Hybrid)

Paths for People is a non-profit advocating to make Edmonton a friendlier place to walk, roll, and cycle. The City of Edmonton is investing $100 million into Edmonton’s active transportation network, creating a huge opportunity to improve connectivity and safety of active transportation for residents and visitors.      

The goal of this project would be to identify key places where small segments of infrastructure can be improved to create a significant positive impact for people walking and biking. This could include missing links between existing routes, major intersection that could be made safer, or streets that would benefit from the addition of protected bike infrastructure. After using community insights and the City’s open data to identify these key sites, the student will develop design proposal based on best practices world-wide. The project would also analyze recent improvements in active transportation infrastructure and highlight continued areas of excellence and improvement.
We are open to adapting this project based on student interests and skills. A passion for active transportation is required. Experience with policy review, active transportation infrastructure design, and modeling are considered assets.

To express interest: Please email your CV with a short statement of interest for the project of your choice [at]




Past GCA Projects:

Eligible opportunities may be labelled as ‘volunteer’, and can be found in many non-profit, non-governmental and community organizations (local, remote, abroad). This award is intended to help undergraduate students defray the associated costs of participating in an unpaid/volunteer opportunity where they can put their engineering and design skills to work while serving the community and promoting positive societal change.


Building a 75m footbridge in Eswatini

Developing a inventory management software to assist Ugandan pharmacies

Retrofitting older buildings in Montreal to improve their carbon footprint




Eligible opportunities generally involve a vetting/selection process, are mentored, and have clear plans, learning outcomes and deliverables.

If you are unsure whether or not your opportunity falls within the eligibility criteria defined below, we suggest meeting with a member of the Empower Team to discuss it.


Project Eligibility:

  • Be between 12 to 16 weeks in length during the Summer 2024 term
  • Be clear in its description of duties, responsibilities and deliverables required of the student
  • Demonstrate opportunity for personal, professional and/or leadership development
  • Demonstrate that the student will be using their engineering or architectural knowledge
  • Be supervised by a professional and who will provide a final evaluation of the student

Student Eligibility:

To be considered for the Global Challenges Award, you must meet all of the following:

  1. Be enrolled in an Undergraduate degree in the Faculty of Engineering at McGill University
  2. Return for at least 1 term of studies before completing your degree
  3. Be in satisfactory academic standing
  4. Have completed at least 2 full-time academic terms

Ineligible Opportunities:

What does the funding include?

Funding amounts will be based on several factors. Financial support from other sources or awards is not a prerequisite for the Global Challenges Award but will be taken into account in the final amount disbursed. A detailed budget will be required to assess the final value of the award. Items in budget may include travel, accommodation, and one-time relocation expenses (for opportunities outside the Montreal area), specialized equipment (steel toed boots, building material, tools, specialty equipment rentals …), costs related to insurance and visas/entry fees. The Award will not subsidize the purchase of certain materials including but not limited to a computer, camera, etc.

Other Considerations

Health and Safety:

The Faculty cannot guarantee the safety of any student during the length of their project whether it be local or abroad. It is up to the student to fully assess and prepare for any health or security risks that may be involved in pursuing the opportunity. Applicants are encouraged to discuss potential risks with their family prior to applying.

Applicants must ensure that they are physically and mentally capable of successfully completing an internship in the internship host country/location. The Faculty may request a doctor’s attestation that an applicant is sufficiently healthy to complete an internship.


Traveling, living and working abroad can involve certain risks to your health and safety that differ from your home country. These may include: crime, political/social instability, tropical diseases/infections, extreme weather conditions, poor infrastructure, etc. All applicants should consult the Global Affairs Government of Canada Travel Advice and Advisories for the internship host country prior to applying to an opportunity abroad.

Travel arrangements:

Preparing travel arrangements to and from the host community is the responsibility of the student.


Finding suitable lodging during the project is the responsibility of the student.

Entry requirements:

Students are responsible for informing themselves of what entry requirements are required to visit and work as an intern in the host country. These may include a visa, work permit, passport valid for at least 6 months after entry, and proof of certain vaccinations. The student is responsible for acquiring all necessary documents in time for the beginning of their project. Non-USA citizens completing an internship (paid or unpaid) in the USA require a J-1 visa. Students should apply for a J-1 through Cultural Vistas or the SWAP Summer USA Program (Canadians only). Students should be prepared to pay $1,300 - $2,500 for a J-1, and should allow a six-week delay for processing. Neither the Faculty nor the host organizations are responsible for helping the student procure the visa, or speed up the processing.

Ready to apply?

For the Summer 2024 Award, the deadline to apply is March 29, 2024, after which all applications will be reviewed by a committee composed of members from the Faculty of Engineering.

To help with your planning, you may apply for the Global Challenges Award without having official confirmation from your partner organization.

Application Requirements:

  1. Description of host organization
  2. Supervisor/team lead information
  3. Description of position and duties/responsibilities
  4. Description of how your engineering degree relates to the opportunity

Required documents:

  1. Letter of Interest (maximum 500 words)
  2. CV
  3. Copy of unofficial transcript
  4. Proof of Participation (i.e., email from host organization, contract) *Note that if proof of participation is pending at the time of application, you can still apply for the award. The award will only be granted once proof of participation is received.
  5. Detailed budget including overview of funding received from other sources (e.g., department, faculty, external) *Note that external funding is not required to be eligible.


Next steps:

  1. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of Faculty of Engineering members after the March 29, 2024 deadline.
  2. The Faculty of Engineering will email successful applicants with next steps in Spring 2024.
  3. Awardees will be required to submit their banking information on Minerva for payment.
  4. Awardees will be required to submit a report, and write a letter of thanks to the donors upon completion of their Global Challenge.
  5. Recognition will be added to your co-curricular record
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