Iowa City Press-Citizen: UI Engineering Students Accept National Challenge

Friday, April 4, 2014

By Sarah Agnew
Iowa City Press-Citizen

The University of Iowa’s College of Engineering was the seventh in the country — and the first in the Big Ten and the only in Iowa — to be accepted into the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenge Scholars Program in 2011.

The program is a combined curricular and extracurricular program that challenges select engineering students to devise innovative engineering solutions to what the NAE has identified as 14 of the world’s most complex problems. Among the challenges are providing access to clean water, making solar energy economical, securing cyberspace, enhancing virtual reality, restoring and improving urban infrastructure and preventing nuclear terror.

Alec Scranton, dean of UI’s College of Engineering, said being part of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program is part of the college’s effort to be recognized internationally for engineering education and research. The college currently has 10 Grand Challenge Scholars.

“This work is done above and beyond their usual curriculum,” he said.

The students must use five program components to meet their challenge: research experience, interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, global dimension and service learning.

“For us, the program is a natural because those five elements are already part of what we do here at the engineering college,” Scranton said.

The program costs between $25,000 and $50,000 year and is covered annually by Jim Whiteley, an alumnus of UI’s College of Engineering who was looking for a way to give back to the university.

“One of my passions is technology and engineering,” said Whiteley, who received undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from UI in the early 1960s. “I learned a lot from working problems that I didn’t think were solvable. It stretches your reality.”

Schools with approved Grand Challenge Scholars Programs

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
University of Southern California, Viterbi School of Engineering
Arizona State University, Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering
Louisiana Tech University, College of Engineering and Science
NC State University, College of Engineering
University of Iowa, College of Engineering
Lafayette College
Duke University, Pratt School of Engineering
The University of Tennessee, College of Engineering
Bucknell University, Bucknell College of Engineering
Western New England College, School of Engineering
St. Louis University, Parks College of Engineering, Aviation & Technology
The University of Texas at Austin, Cockrell School of Engineering
University of Utah, College of Engineering
Florida Gulf Coast University, U.A. Whitaker College of Engineering