DeMatha High School’s “Amigos” Win 2024 Fire Protection Engineering Design Challenge

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DeMatha Catholic High School won the tenth annual Design Challenge competition hosted by the Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE), earning their second victory since 2016.  

The “Amigos” team demonstrated the ability to build a system that successfully detects and suppresses a flame in a reduced-scale house model. Their innovative design impressed judges and team mentors assessing creative and innovative approaches. 

Six other schools participated in the challenge this year, including: Atholton High School, Elizabeth Seton High School, Mount De Sales Academy, Notre Dame Preparatory School, Old Mill High School and Woodlawn High School. 

“The Design Challenge is our premium outreach event for high-school students and is a fantastic introduction to the principles of engineering design and fire protection engineering,” said Arnaud Trouvé, chair of the department. “The event also serves as a recruitment tool for FPE.”

Each year, the challenge brings together high school teams from local areas to expose students to basic principles of fire safety engineering, construction skills, and the scientific method. The goal is that participation in the program will boost student confidence in pursuing STEM careers, and the department welcomes excitement to learn about fire protection engineering, a field not broadly known.

Teams typically formed by three to five students are assembled and paired with a professional or teacher mentor in October to begin learning challenge guidelines and review supporting materials provided by the department. Early design and testing of housing models begins in February through competition day in April.  

The race for first place is held in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) facilities in Beltsville, Maryland, where each team is given a chance to showcase their prototypes in a burn test to demonstrate efficient fire suppression methodologies. The world-class ATF facilities ensure that a safe environment is kept in place for the participants. 

The Design Challenge is proud to thank the American Fire Sprinkler Association for their annual donation that supports the supplies provided to the schools, prizes provided to winning teams, and marketing for the program. Learn more about the learning outcomes and application process for next year’s competition. 


  • Notre Dame Preparatory School (2023)

  • Elizabeth Seton High School (2022)

  • Elizabeth Seton High School (2021)

  • Mount de Sales Academy (2019) 

  • Elizabeth Seton High School (2018)

  • Elizabeth Seton High School (2017)

  • DeMatha Catholic High School (2016)

Published May 6, 2024