Grand Challenges

New approaches are needed for educating engineering students. Many companies and industries have found that several tasks of engineering, innovation, and development can be performed more cheaply and efficiently overseas. With information technology and globalization, STEM dominated fields are being outsourced [1]. In one widely publicized estimate, Forrester Research estimates that 3.3 million R&D jobs will move offshore by 2015 [2]. This means U.S. students will require value-added skills [3] — namely creativity, problem definition and innovation, and integration of engineering systems [4]. In addition, they need to be able to grapple with the technological challenges and opportunities in today’s world, as well as with multi-cultural viewpoints. Use of Transdisciplinary (TD) education approaches are timely since TD propositions require testing with diverse populations to support these fundamental suppositions.

In a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Grasso and Martinelli, address challenges brought forth in Rising Above the Gathering Storm [5]. They conclude that the U. S. does not necessarily need more engineers but rather needs to maintain the quality of 21st century engineering graduates and to educate engineers in a more holistic manner. Engineers should “look beyond the fields of math and science, in search of solutions to entire problems,” and “must at least attempt to understand the human condition in all its complexity—which requires the study of literature, history, philosophy, psychology, religion and economics, among other fields” [6]. There is a current need to re-emphasize the creative aspects of engineering innovation to maintain competitiveness and to prepare future engineers and researchers for a global environment [7]. U.S. students need to be taught new skills for dynamically synthesizing new knowledge in response to challenges they will face, such as the Grand Challenges identified by the National Academy of Engineering [8] and new challenges not yet recognized.

“In a LETTER OF COMMITMENT presented to President Barack Obama today, more than 120 U.S. engineering schools announced plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century. 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 (National Academy of Engineering, [9]).


  1. [1]  Engardio P., Einhorn B., 2005. Outsourcing Innovation. Business Week, Mar. 21.
  2. [2]   Chesbrough, H., Vanhaverbeke, W., & West, J. 2006. Open innovation: Researching a new paradigm. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  3. [3]  Moorman, C., 1995. Organizational market information processes: Cultural antecedents and new product outcomes. Journal of Marketing Research, 32.
  4. [4]  National Academy of Engineering, 2007. Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 20th Century.
  5. [5]  Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, 2007. Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future,
  6.       Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
  7. [6]  Grasso D., Martinelli D., 2007. Holistic Engineering. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 53, 28, p. B8.
  8. [7]    Devon R., 2004. EDSGN 497 H: Global Approaches to Engineering Design., accessed:
  9.         November 18, 2005.
  10. [8]   National Academy of Engineering. NAE Grand Challenges for Engineering., accessed: Sept. 7, 2012.
  11. [9] National Academy of Engineering, 2015. Second Global Gran Challenges Summit,
  12. 10. Some of this part of the article is taken from NSF proposal submitted by Dr. A. Ertas and et .all.