Friday, June 12, 2009

Engineering's Grand Challenges

NSPE's PE Magazine had an article in its April 09 edition about the National Academy of Engineering's (NAE) Grand Challenges summit. The think tank of top experts in engineering, science, humanities, and public policy met in March to discuss the biggest engineering challenges of the 21st century. Their key findings include:
  • Americans have high expectations of technological advancement and of U.S. leadership meeting the challenges.
  • Most adults view engineering as less appealing to young people compared to law, medicine, or business.
  • Interest in engineering grows as youngsters learn about the challenges engineers are addressing.
  • To improve competitiveness, higher education standards are necessary.
(Note: Paraphrased directly from the PE Magazine article. No byline is listed for the author of the article.)

The list of 14 Grand Challenges
  1. Make solar energy economical
  2. Provide energy from fusion
  3. Develop carbon sequestration methods
  4. Manage the nitrogen cycle
  5. Provide access to clean water
  6. Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  7. Engineer better medicines
  8. Advance health informatics
  9. Secure cyberspace
  10. Prevent nuclear terror
  11. Reverse-engineer the brain
  12. Enhance virtual reality
  13. Advance personalized learning
  14. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
It is not just a bunch of talking heads in a room, it is up to all of us to meet these challenges. We must get involved both professionally and personally to continue towards the goal of reaching the goals set by these challenges. Educate, inform, and participate at as many levels as possible. These are not some challenges that we can afford to waste time on, or pass down for the next generation to deal with. I urge all of you to get started by visiting the links I have posted above and learn about these Grand Challenges. Find out where you can help.