Engineering educators should motivate and support students in developing not only technical competence but also professional competence including commitment to excellence. We developed an authentic assessment to improve students’ understanding of the importance of ‘perfection’ in engineering – whereby 50% good enough will not be acceptable in industry. Subsequently we aimed to motivate them to practise performing at their best when they practice engineering. Students in a third-year mechanical and mechatronic engineering unit completed a team design project designed with authentic assessment features to replicate industry expectations and a novel marking scheme to encourage the pursuit of excellence. We report mixed responses from students. Students’ ratings of their levels of effort on this assessment indicate that many perceived a positive influence on their effort. However, students’ comments included several that were consistent with students experiencing the assessment as alienating.