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LTU students look to solve 21st century problems in federal 'Grand Challenge'

Release Date: December 4, 2020

SOUTHFIELD—Students at Lawrence Technological University will show off their work solving some of the most vexing problems of the 21st century in a federal “Grand Challenges of Engineering” virtual presentation program Tuesday, Dec. 8.

The student presentations will be held online from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The presentations are open to the public.

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

The challenges are 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.

Lawrence Tech is one of only two engineering schools in Michigan to implement the Grand Challenges Scholars Program—and the only university in the entire nation 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, Engineering Design Studio, also participated.

Said LTU Provost Tarek Sobh: “The Grand Challenges Scholars Program, with its vision of solving the major problems facing humanity in the 21st century and its emphasis on interdisciplinary research, entrepreneurship, service, and global engagement, truly epitomizes what Lawrence Technological University is all about. LTU is the creative university of the future that ensures eminent high-paying professional careers for its alumni, the university that produces technologically savvy graduates no matter what degree they attain or discipline they choose to study, the creative university that prepares students for 21st century interdisciplinary careers and job titles that do not even exist yet.” 

The first year of the program, in December 2019, a live poster session was held to show off the students’ work. This year, due to the pandemic, the presentations will be virtual. LTU faculty and outside experts will vote on the winners. First place and honorable mention awards will be awarded for both of the two classes competing, as well as an overall Grand Champion. Students will use their proposals to apply for research grants.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.


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