LTU students look to solve future problems in federal 'Grand Challenge'

Release Date: December 18, 2019
grand challenge

Jessica Clore, a chemistry major from South Rockwood, explains her project on the impact of biofuels on environmental emissions to LTU robotics instructor James Kerns.
LTU photo / Matt Roush.


Four Lawrence Technological University students won top prizes in a federally sponsored research competition to help solve some of the “Grand Challenges” of civilization in the 21st Century.

The Grand Challenges of Engineering program was developed by the National Academy of Engineering and top engineering schools out of the NAE’s 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society.

Lawrence Tech is one of only two engineering schools in Michigan to implement the Grand Challenges Scholars Program—and the only university in the country to include humanities majors in the effort, according to Jason Barrett, chair of the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communications in LTU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

“The problems of the 21st Century are too big for people in any one field to solve,” Barrett said. “Solutions will come only through working across disciplines, including engineering, the sciences, entrepreneurship, and design.”

At Lawrence Tech, first-year humanities students taking a required class in “Pathways to Research Careers” were asked to design a research project that would help someone in their major solve one of the Grand Challenge’s 14 problems facing society. Second-year engineering students taking a course in entrepreneurial engineering also participated. LTU faculty and outside experts voted the following four winners out of nearly 100 entries:

  • Grand Prize, Provost’s Grand Challenge Research Award: Cole Higley, a molecular and cellular biology major from Oakley, who investigated the effects of genetically modified foods on dental health.
  • First Place, Health: Edward Dopkowski, a molecular and cellular biology major from Washington Township, who designed a phone app for monitoring caloric intake.
  • First Place, Technology: Dylan Karges, a physics and computer science major from Macomb Township, who investigated the impact of artificial intelligence on employment trends.
  • First Place, Sustainability: Jessica Clore, a chemistry major from South Rockwood, who measured the impact of biofuels on environmental emissions.

The Grand Challenge’s 14 problems were advancing personalized learning, making solar energy economical, enhancing virtual reality, reverse-engineering the brain, engineering better medicines, advancing health informatics, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, securing cyberspace, providing access to clean water, providing energy from fusion, preventing nuclear terrorism, managing the nitrogen cycle, developing carbon sequestration methods, and engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

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