Building superior engineers to address the century’s greatest engineering challenges

Credit: Reuters

Top US engineering schools band together to address Grand Engineering Challenges

It’s going to take more than a village or engineers to address the most complex and critical needs of 21st century society and today, more than 120 of the country’s engineering schools said they would pump out a community of engineers explicitly equipped to tackle those problems.

Each of the 122 schools from Brown to Youngstown State has pledged to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who will be specially prepared to lead the way in solving such large-scale problems, with the goal of training more than 20,000 formally recognized “Grand Challenge Engineers” over the next decade, the group stated in a letter to President Obama.

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The Grand Challenges which were developed by the National Academy of Engineering and National Science Foundation a few years ago include:

*Make solar energy affordable

* Provide energy from fusion

* Develop carbon sequestration methods

* Manage the nitrogen cycle

* Provide access to clean water

* Restore and improve urban infrastructure

* Advance health informatics

* Engineer better medicines

* Reverse-engineer the brain

* Prevent nuclear terror

* Secure cyberspace

* Enhance virtual reality

 * Advance personalized learning

* Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

 According to the group, the training model was inspired by the National Academy of Engineering-endorsed Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP), established in 2009 by Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, Olin College, and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering in response to the NAE’s 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century.

There are currently 20 active GCSPs and more than 160 NAE-designated Grand Challenge Scholars have graduated to date. Half of the graduates are women—compared with just 19% of U.S. undergraduate engineering students—demonstrating the program’s appeal to groups typically underrepresented in engineering, the group stated.

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