From urban centers to remote corners of Earth, the depths of the ocean to space, humanity has always sought to transcend barriers, overcome challenges, and create opportunities that improve life in our part of the universe. In the last century alone, many great engineering achievements became so commonplace that we now take them mostly for granted. Technology allows an abundant supply of food and safe drinking water for much of the world. We rely on electricity for many of our daily activities. We can travel the globe with relative ease, and bring goods and services wherever they are needed. Growing computer and communications technologies are opening up vast stores of knowledge and entertainment. As remarkable as these engineering achievements are, certainly just as many more great challenges and opportunities remain to be realized. While some seem clear, many others are indistinct and many more surely lie beyond most of our imaginations. Today, we begin engineering a path to the future.
Here are the Grand Challenges for engineering as determined by a committee of the National Academy of Engineering:
• Make solar energy economical
• Provide energy from fusion
• Develop carbon sequestration methods
• Manage the nitrogen cycle
• Provide access to clean water
• Restore and improve urban infrastructure
• Advance health informatics
• Engineer better medicines
• Reverse-engineer the brain
• Prevent nuclear terror
• Secure cyberspace
• Enhance virtual reality
• Advance personalized learning
• Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
Source: National Academy of Engineering, Grand Challenges of Engineering, http://www.engineeringchallenges.org/ (accessed September 16, 2011).
• A strongly growing and increasingly diverse population, enriched by its capacity to attract talented immigrants from around the world.
• A historic commitment to education that, until recently, pioneered and led the world in the expansion of high school and college education.3
• An ecosystem of public and private research universities that in-
3 Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz, The Race Between Education and Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.