Robert Bruce Thompson Charitable Trust Announces the 2021 RBT Student Light Fixture Design Competition

by | Oct 19, 2020 | News

The Robert Bruce Thompson Charitable Trust has announced the 2021 RBT Student Light Fixture Design Competition. This competition is open to students in American university design and engineering programs, either undergraduate or graduate.

This year’s problem is the following:

You have been hired by a University Student Center to design a light fixture for the bookstore apparel area. Specifically, the Student Center sells jerseys and other clothing that celebrates the school’s sports teams. The luminaire should illuminate circular racks of logo clothing, but also have a lively and inviting appearance.  It should deliver light in an energy-efficient manner, without glare for the customer and staff.  The bookstore apparel area has a ceiling height of 11’.  It has sliding doors that open onto an exterior plaza to become an indoor/outdoor space so the fixture will also serve to advertise the Student Center.  Determining the architectural design of the apparel area is up to you.  

Consider how apparel and people will look under the lighting and how the lighting enhances the product.  Energy use, durability and maintenance are important considerations for this institution.   Describe how the luminaire is controlled.  Identify all major components and materials of the fixture.  Document the fixture as instructed under the Competition Rules.

Olivia Birritteri, Architecture, Thomas Jefferson University

Above is an image of last year’s design problem winner. As you can see, this entry is creative, but it is also important that the student think through the details of building and mounting this fixture and document these details. It’s a way to encourage the next design generation to think beyond what looks good on the computer screen, to what will be buildable, installable, and maintainable.

The top prize is $5000, and that can make a considerable contribution to a student’s education costs. Every year PNNL gives out approximately $10,000 in awards.

About the RBT Student Light Fixture Design Competition

The Trust that administers this competition was set up in honor of Robert Bruce Thompson, a twenty-five year veteran of the lighting industry. He had a broad background in the profession having worked in theatre, retail, as a factory representative, and concluding his career in manufacturing as vice president of sales and marketing. Throughout his career Bruce emphasized design and innovation. He was also an accomplished light fixture designer. He wanted this independent competition to encourage creativity and education in light fixture design and manufacturing.

You can find out more about this competition and view last year’s winners at