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The Emma Wiggs Challenge

The Emma Wiggs Challenge is a competition hosted exclusively by OAS, putting the engineering and design skills of our apprentices to the test with the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from, double Paralympic Champion Emma Wiggs MBE.

In small teams, our first year apprentices have been tasked with working on a new design concept that can help Emma and other wheelchair users in their day-to-day lives and showcase some of the benefits of design engineering to help others.

Who is Emma Wiggs MBE?

Emma Wiggs is an 11-time World Champion paracanoeist and double Paralympic Champion who has won gold medals at both the Rio and Tokyo Paralympics.

She competes in the women’s 200m KL2 and VL2 classes and is one of the UK’s most decorated Paralympians having taken up paracanoeing after the London Games in 2012. 

Since a mystery virus impaired mobility in her legs aged just 18, Emma has fought her way to the top, dedicating herself to her sport and inspiring people along the way, as she shows just what is possible with a positive mindset and the determination to be the best that you can be in your chosen field. 

As she continued to train to compete at Paris 2024, we were delighted and proud that Emma agreed to work with OAS and our apprentices as we launched the Emma Wiggs Challenge!

What is the Emma Wiggs Challenge?

Having previously tasked OAS’s training provider, the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), to design a bespoke canoe paddle which helped her achieve gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Emma Wiggs presented a fresh challenge to OAS apprentices.

The inaugural competition kicked off in 2023 with a visit to OAS from Emma where she shared her inspiring story of how she has become one of the UK’s most successful Paralympians of all time, explaining to our apprentices some of the everyday challenges she continues to face as a wheelchair user.

Apprentices then formed small teams to work on a new design concept that could help Emma, and other people with disabilities, in their day-to-day lives.  

As they neared the end of their first year with OAS, the apprentices presented their concepts and ideas back to Emma and our judging panel.

To support the work of the teams, Emma hosted two virtual workshops over the course of the challenge, enabling each team to ask questions and refine plans as they developed and finalised their design concepts. 

 On the Finals Day, each team pitched to a panel of judges, including Emma Wiggs herself. They considered a series of criteria including innovation, creativity and the level of research undertaken, the usefulness of the problem it solves and its potential to be produced. After much deliberation, a winner was chosen.

The finalists then travelled to the National Water Sports Centre in Nottingham, where Emma treated them to a behind-the-scenes tour of Holme Pierrepont, the home of British Canoeing, followed by time on the water paddle boarding and kayaking.

Following the success of the first ever Emma Wiggs Challenge, Emma returned to OAS to relaunch the challenge for 2024. The latest cohort of first year engineering apprentices are working hard on their ideas to discuss with Emma in upcoming virtual workshops. The final of this year's challenge will take place at OAS on Monday 13 May when the design concepts they create will be unveiled.