Real Industry Design Challenges

Real Industry works with leading brands to brings dozens of design challenges to major universities every year.  


Real Industry organizes and executes Real Industry Design Challenges to educate, inspire, and empower hundreds of university students. The initiative enables brands to gain invaluable product/marketing insights and secure top, diverse candidates for their early talent and internships programs. This program provides invaluable employer branding, workplace diversity recruiting opportunities, product insights, and recruiting opportunities from a pool of the brightest future engineers, content creators, business leaders, and designers. Students at participating universities will spend between 2-4 weeks working on a problem statement, receive mentorship from the partner company and Real Industry’s network of hundreds of industry experts, design and implement prototypes, and present their solution to a panel of experts.

Real Industry is a non-profit that educates, inspires, and empowers university students to thrive in the arts and technology industry. We create hands-on programs where students work with industry mentors to tackle real-world problems. Students are exposed to new career paths, develop new skills, and rapidly expand their professional networks.


  1. Choose a Design Challenge prompt. Working with Real Industry, partners select the most promising problem statement(s) to become part of our university design challenges.

    What does the future of music streaming look like in VR?

    Use real-world data and technologies provided by our partners to design and prototype compelling experiences. 

  2. Select Universities and Prepare for the Tour. Real Industry prepares the selected problem statements for university students. Over a 6 month process, we select the universities to meet your diversity, hiring, and branding goals, work to prototype the event with small classes and groups, and prepare for on-campus design challenges.

  3. Execute the Real Industry Design Challenge. Each program lasts between 2-4 weeks and has 4 components:

    1. Kickoff event
      The main event is a 3-hour experiential, high-energy kickoff event. 100 students are led through a series of design thinking exercises to begin attacking a problem. Students self-organize into 5 person interdisciplinary teams, learn real-world industry roles, and engage with the company and Real Industry mentors.

    2. Online challenge
      Students work in teams outside of the classroom over 2-4 weeks to solve this real-world industry problem. Students participate in office hours, online mentorship sessions, and submit their final proposals by creating a 5-minute pitch video. See below for recent examples.  

    3. Wrap-up event
      Students reunite to present their work and receive crucial feedback, advice, and support.

      University teams will present their projects to employees for feedback, judging, and prizes. Partners elect to provide experiential prizes (opportunities to demo at hack days, special visits to corporate offices, industry trade shows, interviews, mentorship sessions, etc).

    4. Follow-on mentorship
      Students have an optional period to receive one-on-one soft skill or technical coaching based on their career goals.

      During this multi-week program, students discover new career paths, expand their professional networks, and develop real-world portfolio projects. They develop a deep personal, brand, and employer affiliation for our partners. We’ll work closely with the partner team to ensure that insights, designs, and applications flow into the organization.


  • Reach and access students at amazing universities to increase the diversity of applicants, employer branding and recruiting, gain product insights, and support the next generation of our industry.

  • Engage university students to work on partner challenges.

  • Create engaging, compelling demonstrations of our partner’s technology that can be demonstrated publicly and internally.

  • Visibility with 18-24-year-old college students who are interested in design, technology, business, and more.

  • Support a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit and the next generation of industry leaders.

EXAMPLE DESIGN CHALLENGE: In partnership with Bose, Stanford students designed and built an interactive audio and science educational kit using headphones, earbuds, and custom software.

EXAMPLE DESIGN CHALLENGE: Over 80 UC Berkeley Master’s of Engineering students designed, modeled, and built an interactive audio and science educational kit with Autodesk and Bose technologies.

WINNING TEAM SUBMISSION: Carnegie Mellon Bose Challenge, 2018

Problem Statement: How might we use audio-augmented reality to improve someone’s daily life?
Solution: The team demonstrates an augmented reality medical assistant that leverages Audio Fencing to accurately localize medical professionals and relay patients' information. With Bose Wearable technology, this team’s solution enables timely access to key patient information, empowering healthcare providers to better and more securely serve their patients.

WINNING TEAM SUBMISSION: Sonos Boston Challenge, 2018

Problem Statement: How do we design or build an experience that delivers the right sound, at the right moment, into people's lives?
Solution: Sitting around trying to decide what song to play to please everyone is so last year's problem. With OurSound, let your Sonos speaker be the DJ for the night. OurSound provides any group of users with the right sound at the right moment.


Since 2014, educational nonprofit Real Industry has executed over 40 university design challenges. Long-time partners like Pandora, Sonos, and Bose have worked with Real Industry since 2016 to host a minimum of 2 university challenges per year.

In 2019, Facebook joins Real Industry as our newest corporate partner.

Companies like Sonos, Bose, Autodesk, Facebook, and Pandora engage us to educate and inspire university students. Since the companies receive extraordinary employer branding and recruiting benefits (Bose, Sonos, and Pandora always hire students from our programs!), budgets are typically provided by their HR/university recruiting or engineering budgets. (Profile: Mike Herring, Google’s Business Finance Officer and former Pandora CFO / President on Real Industry.)

Companies receive much more than just employer branding and recruiting opportunities. University students generate inspiring ideas, too! We helped Autodesk, Sennheiser, Bose, and Sonos receive over 1,000 headphone/speaker/design ideas in 2017. In 2018, we helped Bose launch their Wearable SDK and Sonos empower hundreds of early Sonos API users. We are helping Facebook launch their spatial audio and VR tools in 2019. 


Schedule a call with Jay LeBoeuf (Founder & Executive Director, Real Industry). 

here are some of the universities that support our programs...

Stanford University • University of Michigan • University of Washington • Carnegie Mellon University  • University of California, Berkeley • New York University • Tufts University • Massachusetts Institute of Technology • University of Southern California •  
University of Hartford • Worcester Polytechnic Institute • California Institute of the Arts •  University of California, Santa Barbara  • Middle Tennessee State University • Berklee College of Music • Georgia Tech • University of Massachusetts, Lowell • University of Miami • Full Sail University  • SAE Institute • Expression College • McGill University •  San Francisco State University • CalState University System (23 campuses) •  University of Technology, Sydney • Queensland University of Technology • Macquarie University • JMC Academy (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane) • Universidad Claeh, Montevideo