Mines Commits To Educating Engineers To Meet Grand Challenges

Some of the deans who signed the commitment letter to educate 20,000 engineers. Image Credit: National Academy of Engineers

Some of the deans who signed the commitment letter to educate 20,000 engineers. Image Credit: National Academy of Engineers

March 26, 2015 – Colorado School of Mines has joined with more than 120 U.S. engineering universities in committing to an initiative dedicated to educating a new generation of engineers equipped to meet the grand challenges society faces today and in the future. The commitment was unveiled Monday at the 2015 White House Science Fair.

Mines College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Dean Kevin Moore was on hand with other U.S. engineering deans in meetings at the White House with the President’s Science Advisor and at the National Academy of Engineering. A national network is emerging from these discussions that is devoted to sharing best practices.

According to an MOU signed by the engineering deans, the contingent will work together to plan ways to achieve the goal of educating engineers and scientists who have “… the broader understanding of behavior, policy, entrepreneurship, and global perspective; one that kindles the passion necessary to take on challenges at humanity’s grandest scale.”

In a letter to President Obama, Moore detailed efforts underway at Mines integrating five key elements outlined in the U.S. Engineering Dean’s response to the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges program. These elements are a creative learning experience connected to the Grand Challenges, experiential learning with clients and mentors that includes interdisciplinary experience, entrepreneurship and innovation experience, global and cross-cultural perspectives, and development of social consciousness through service-learning.

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.

Efforts at Mines include enhancement of the university’s Humanitarian Engineering minor with the addition of social entrepreneurship and innovation opportunities and revision of the accredited Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree to include a Grand Challenges track.

“It is becoming more and more widely understood that to continue to improve the human condition for all people on the planet it will take more than engineering prowess – engineering students must learn to be problem definers as well as problem solvers,” Moore said. “To make a difference they must understand the complexities of the techno-socio-natural contexts that constrain solutions; they must be part of deciding what to solve as well as how to solve it. We are already teaching some of our students at Mines these things and through our involvement in the Grand Challenges, we have the chance to join a growing community of like-minded engineering educators and to expand what we are doing to the next level.”

The University of Colorado-Boulder and the University of Denver will also take part in the initiative.

For more information on the initiative and to see the engineering deans commitment letter, see the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges website.