Challenges in Engineering
Innovative design has the power to change lives and the world. That’s the foundation of Elon Engineering and why the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges in Engineering are central to our program.
Established in 2008, the Grand Challenges are the result of an international survey of leading thinkers’ goals to improving life on the planet. They are based on the most pressing issues facing society today and span four themes: Sustainability, Health, Security and Joy of Living.
Our students are introduced to these challenges during their first days at Elon and continue to explore them in each year of study. EGR 121 and 123: Grand Challenges in Engineering I and II are typically completed in the fall and spring of an engineering student’s first year. They emphasize engineering design, teamwork, and project management with hands-on projects based on the Grand Challenges.
Grand Challenges I
Students explore engineering design, engineering disciplines, professional practices, project management, ethics, and an engineer’s commitment and service to society. The course incorporates projects in health informatics, infrastructure design, and engineering for access to clean water. It culminates in a team-designed and -built remotely operated vehicle, or ROV. That final project addresses challenge #14: Engineer the tools of scientific discovery. The vehicles are designed to dive into water to perform specific tasks related to marine health, such as measuring water temperature and removing trash. Past semesters have seen students create aquatic ROVs to complete underwater maneuvers and volcano crawlers to traverse and explore treacherous terrain.
Grand Challenges II
Grand Challenges II advances students understanding and experience with design, fabrication, and computer-assisted design. After learning the fundamentals of engineering schematics and SolidWorks design software, students again work in teams to complete a hands-on design project. This spring, students designed and 3D printed model rockets — again addressing engineering tools for scientific discovery. Test launches of those rockets led to a short redesign process to improve flights and function.
NAE’s 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century:
- Advance personalized learning
- Make solar energy economical
- Enhance virtual reality
- Reverse-engineer the brain
- Engineer better medicines
- Advance health informatics
- Restore and improve urban infrastructure
- Secure cyberspace
- Provide access to clean water
- Provide energy from fusion
- Prevent nuclear terror
- Manage the nitrogen cycle
- Develop carbon sequestration methods
- Engineer the tools of scientific discovery