College of Engineering joins national initiative to educate 20,000 engineers

In a letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair, held on Mar. 23, 2015, Wayne State’s College of Engineering joined more than 120 U.S. engineering schools to announce plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.

These "Grand Challenges," identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges for Engineering, and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, include complex yet critical goals such as engineering better medicines, making solar energy cost-competitive with coal, securing cyberspace, and advancing personalized learning tools to deliver better education to more individuals.

Each of the 122 signing schools has pledged to graduate a minimum of 20 students per year who have been 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.

More than a quarter of the nation’s engineering schools are now committed to establishing programs to educate engineers to take on the Grand Challenges. “Through initiatives like the Five Pillars to Student Success and the establishment of the James and Patricia Anderson Engineering Ventures Institute, the Wayne State College of Engineering is already training future engineers to meet the demands of a changing world. Our college is proud to join in this national effort and represent engineering in Detroit,” says Farshad Fotouhi, dean of the College of Engineering.

Grand Challenge Engineers will be trained through special programs at each institution that integrate five educational elements: (1) a hands-on research or design project connected to the Grand Challenges; (2) real-world, interdisciplinary experiential learning with clients and mentors; (3) entrepreneurship and innovation experience; (4) global and cross-cultural perspectives; and (5) service-learning.

“The NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering are already inspiring more and more of our brightest young people to pursue careers that will have direct impacts on improving the quality of life for people across the globe,” said NAE President C.D. Mote Jr. “Imagine the impact of tens of thousands of additional creative minds focused on tackling society’s most vexing challenges. ‘Changing the world’ is not hyperbole in this case. With the right encouragement, they will do it and inspire others as well.”

More information on this initiative, including a copy of the letter of commitment, is available here. The initiative grew out of a 2014 workshop organized by the American Association of Engineering Societies, Epicenter, Engineers Without Borders USA, EPICS, and the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

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Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution of higher education offering 380 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students. For more information about engineering at Wayne State University, visit engineering.wayne.edu.

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