Preparing a Generation to Tackle the Grand Challenges
The National Academy of Engineering’s (NAE’s) list of 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century is a call to action and a means of focusing society’s attention on opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life.
The NAE commissioned the following aspirational vision for what engineering needs to deliver to all people on the planet in the 21st century:
The continuation of life on the planet, making our world more sustainable, secure, healthy, and joyful.
Nearly all 14 challenges address complex social issues that require innovative technology and a systems approach to solving them, but they cannot be solved in a vacuum. They also will require engineers to shape public policy, transfer technical innovation to the market place and to inform and be informed by social science and the humanities.
14 Grand Challenges
Make solar energy economical
Provide energy from fusion
Develop methods for carbon sequestration
Manage the nitrogen cycle
Provide access to clean water
Advance health informatics
Engineer better medicines
Prevent nuclear terror
Restore urban infrastructure
Reverse engineer the brain
Enhance virtual reality
Advance personalized learning
Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
These are ambitious tasks that will require a new generation of engineers that will collectively:
- Create new capabilities
- Provide pragmatic solutions for basic human needs
- Develop new entrepreneurial opportunities
- Reinvent human interactions
- Transform systems thinking
- Be the architects of a sustainable society
- Be mindful of unintended consequences
- Connect technology with society
The NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program at NC State is a combined curricular and extra-curricular program with five core competencies listed below that are designed to prepare students to solve these grand challenges facing society. These are challenges to “change the world.”
- The Talent Competency – Scholars will engage in hands-on projects to help design innovative solutions through deep immersion in an academically rigorous environment.
- The Multidisciplinary Competency – Scholars will connect their engineering education to various fields of study as well as explore how other disciplines can enhance creative and analytical problem-solving.
- The Entrepreneurship & Viable Business Model Competency – Scholars will develop and market engineering solutions that scale up for mass production, transmission, adoption, and consumption among people and places around the world.
- The Multicultural Competency – Scholars will apply diverse perspectives and cross-cultural competencies that span worldwide markets, international borders, and multicultural societies to inform the engineering process.
- The Social Consciousness Competency – Scholars will create and cultivate a personal commitment to lifelong learning, social responsibility, and ethical duty for engineering a better tomorrow for all.
Featured Scholars in Action
Solving Grand Challenges Through a New Perspective
Her interests and background in history allowed her to see these grand challenges through a different perspective. As a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, Danielle Danztler is majoring in biological engineering plus history. “I like how you can pull in a different discipline,” she explains. “Through my knowledge of history, you can think about medicine in use by other cultures or look back at medicine practices of the past for potential answers or inspiration.”
Team of Scholars Place in Global Summit
A team of scholars from NC State competed in a pitch competition in London and first among teams from the United States. What do access to clean water, better fertilizer and premium coffee beans have in common? It's all part of engineering in an unpredictable world.
Pioneering the Program
Start small and think big. Meet the first undergraduates to join the program and bring the movement of the Grand Challenge Scholars to NC State.
Scholars will produce their own comprehensive portfolio of research, projects and high-impact experiences that can be leveraged to pursue future academic and professional endeavors.
Scholars have access to funding from the Engineer Your Experience (EYE) program to develop core competencies, wherein funding requests may include, but are not limited to, travel costs to attend professional conferences, research symposia, and design or entrepreneurial competitions.
Scholars have access to industry partners that are strategically aligned with designing solutions to the Grand Challenges.
Scholars gain experience as a teaching assistant promoting the Grand Challenges in the first-year course Engineering in the 21st Century (E 102).
Scholars will have opportunities to network among scholars, both at NC State and at sister programs around the nation, as well as faculty members of the National Academy of Engineering.
Graduating seniors will be distinctly recognized as Grand Challenge Scholars on their official university transcript upon completion of the program.
How to Apply
All NC State undergraduates who have successfully joined any major within the College of Engineering (i.e., complete the CODA process) are eligible to apply. Undergraduates in the Engineering First Year program or other non-engineering programs are not eligible and their consideration will be postponed until acceptance into an engineering degree program.
Applications will be evaluated based upon the breadth and depth of proposed experiences, so the strongest proposals will be those demonstrating sustained involvement in activities related to the Grand Challenges prior to applying for the program. Students with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher will be the most competitive applicants.