The Grand Challenges
In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) established a set of fourteen Grand Challenges that engineers face in order to make progress toward a sustainable world - one that provides all people with more than just their basic needs and aspires to a higher level of living. The fourteen Grand Challenges range across disciplines and incorporate aspects of life ranging from the developing world to the developed world. It is crucial that future engineers acknowledge these challenges as pressing issues that need to be addressed.
Make Solar Energy Affordable: Today, solar energy is used to power less than one percent of the world's overall energy, but has the potential to do so much more.
Provide Energy from Fusion: Human-engineered fusion has been demonstrated on a small scale. The challenge now is to scale up the process to commercial proportions in an efficient, economical, and environmentally benign way.
Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods: Capturing and storing excess carbon dioxide has the potential to prevent further global warming.
Manage the Nitrogen Cycle: Engineers can help restore balance to the nitrogen cycle with better fertilization technologies and by capturing and recycling waste.
Provide Access to Clean Water: The world's water supplies are facing new threats; affordable, advanced technologies could make a difference for millions of people around the world.
Advance Health Informatics: As computers have become available for all aspects of human endeavors, there is now a consensus that a systematic approach to health informatics - the acquisition, management, and use of information in health - can greatly enhance the quality and efficiently of medical care, and the responses to local, national, international, and global public health emergencies.
Engineer Better Medicines: Advances in engineering further the development of new technologies to improve our ability to assess genetic information, sense small changes in the body, create medicine, and tailor healthcare needs at to each person.
Reverse-Engineer the Brain: A lot of research has been focused on creating "thinking machines” - computers capable of emulating human intelligence - however reverse-engineering the brain could have multiple impacts that go far beyond artificial intelligence, and will promise great advances in health care, manufacturing, and communication.
Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure: Infrastructure is the combination of fundamental systems that support a community, region or country. Society faces the formidable challenge of modernizing the fundamental structures that will support our civilization in the centuries ahead.
Prevent Nuclear Terror: The need for technologies to prevent and to respond to a nuclear attack is growing.
Secure Cyberspace: Computer systems are involved in the management of almost all areas of our lives, from electronic communications and data systems, to controlling traffic lights, to routing airplanes. It is clear that engineers need to develop innovations for addressing a long list of cybersecurity priorities.
Joy of Living
Enhance Virtual Reality: Within many specialized fields from psychology to education, virtual reality is becoming a powerful new tool for training practitioners and treating patients, in addition to its growing use in various forms of entertainment.
Advance Personalized Learning: A growing appreciation of individual preferences and aptitudes has led to more “personalized learning” in which instruction is tailored to a student’s individual needs. Given the diversity of individual preferences and the complexity of each human brain, developing teaching methods that optimize learning will require engineering solutions.
Engineer the Tools for Scientific Discovery: In the century ahead, engineers will continue to be partners with scientists in the great quest for understanding the many unanswered questions of nature.