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Nurturing next generations of solution finders

Posted: October 25, 2010

Engineers have been given a list of “Grand Challenges” by the National Academy of Engineering – 14 challenges to achieve technological breakthroughs the academy says are necessary if the quality of life is to be improved around the planet in the 21st century.

They are wide-ranging goals, from providing energy from fusion and making solar-power generation economical, to providing access to clean water in every corner of the world, making cyberspace secure and preventing nuclear terror.

Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering are using the Grand Challenges as a guide in forging the missions of their research and education endeavors.

Many of the challenges are so daunting that it will require “a new kind of engineer,” says B.L. Ramakrishna, an ASU materials science and engineering professor.

“Success will depend on how we as educators are able to instill innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, a global perspective and learning through community service in the next generations of engineers,” he says.

So as part of the commitment to the Grand Challenges, ASU’s engineering schools are reaching out to K-12 educators to help strengthen the pipeline of future engineers and provide a pathway for development of a new engineering workforce.

They have joined colleagues at Duke University and North Carolina State University who are establishing the Grand Challenges K-12 Partners Program.

On Nov. 5, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering will present a regional conference to begin exploring how engineering education can best be introduced to high school, middle school and elementary school students in Arizona.

As many as 50 teachers from K-12 schools in towns and cities throughout the greater Phoenix area are expected to attend.

“We want to show them how they can collaborate with the university and its industry partners to bring engineering lessons into their classrooms,” says ASU engineering graduate student Katie Muto.

Muto is a the project manager for ASU’s GK-12 Program, which sends ASU graduate students into K-12 schools in the Phoenix area to help teachers include Grand Challenge-themed science and engineering instruction in their courses.

The program is led by professor Ramakrishna with support from the National Science Foundation. He and the GK-12 student leaders are coordinating the Nov. 5 conference.

K-12 teachers will hear from Paul Johnson, executive dean of ASU’s schools of engineering, about using the Grand Challenges effort as a springboard for teaching science, technology, engineering and math to young students.

Industry representatives will discuss how companies are aligning their efforts with the goals of the Grand Challenges and are also interested in aiding K-12 educators.

A representative from Intel will be at ASU conference. Others from Honeywell, Raytheon and General Dynamics technology corporations, as well as the Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service utility companies, have been invited to participate.

Among speakers will be Laura Bottomley, director of Women in Engineering and K-12 Outreach for North Carolina State University’s College of Engineering.

Conference participants will also hear about progress in cutting-edge, Grand Challenge-oriented research from ASU civil and environmental engineering professor Paul Westerhoff.

“We hope to build strong and sustained connections with Arizona’s K-12 schools, and to partner with industry in supporting these schools,” Ramakrishna says.

“We will create a template to help the schools integrate engineering into students’ educational experience,” he says, “and provide professional development opportunities for K-12 teachers to help them incorporate the Grand Challenge into their curriculum.”

The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Convergence Room (#150) SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, at Scottsdale Road and McDowell Road in Scottsdale.

B.L. Ramakrishna, [email protected]
associate professor
School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy
(480) 965-6560

Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
(480) 965-8122 direct line
(480) 773-1364 mobile

About The Author

Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman is a science writer for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Before joining Arizona State University in 2006, Joe worked as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers and magazines dating back to the dawn of the age of the personal computer. He began his career while earning degrees in journalism and philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio. Media Contact: [email protected] | 480-965-8122 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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