Grand Challenges Scholars Program

While we often teach what and how, this program helps students understand why.

Grand Challenges of Engineering

You probably don’t realize it, but engineering impacts your life every day. Think about the breakthroughs made in the 20th century that many of us now take for granted: electricity, clean water, cars, planes, cell phones, the internet and more. All of those are among the greatest achievements in engineering during the 20th century. While we don’t know yet what the most impactful innovations will be during this next 100 years, we know there will be society transforming changes brought about by engineers. 

In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) identified 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century. These problems were identified by the NAE as being of utmost importance to humanity, and described as ‘call to action and serve as a focal point for society's attention to opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life’. The National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars Program is a combined curricular and extra-curricular program designed to prepare students to be the generation that solves the grand challenges facing society in this century. Many universities are participating in the program and NDSU has been selected as one of them and is offering this program to undergraduate engineering students.

NAE Grand Challenges Booklet

Grand Challenges Scholars Program

"We highly encourage students to consider applying to be a Grand Challenge Scholar. The unique element of this program is that it is experiential based. While we often teach what and how, this program helps students understand why." - Dr. Michael Kessler, Dean, College of Engineering 

The Grand Challenges Scholars program at NDSU is a comprehensive research immersive program for energetic and ambitious undergraduate students who wish to participate in this great national venture of engineering. Graduates of this program are expected to be among the key players in solving the grand challenges to humanity. This program will selectively recruit students who are currently freshmen, as described in the application process. Participation in the program will be concurrent to student preparation towards their degrees in their respective departments in engineering. Upon selection, students will work on a project synergistically with the faculty in charge and graduate students.

Overview of NDSU Grand Challenges Scholars Program

Grand Challenges Scholars Program Operational Document 

Grand Challenges benefits

Why apply and participate in the Grand Challenges Scholars program?

  • Connect your fields of interest with wider societal problems
  • Put your engineering background to the service of society
  • Get hands-on research experience in one of the grand challenge focal points
  • Immerse yourself in an interdisciplinary curriculum
  • Address challenges using innovative and entrepreneurial methods

More specifically, the Grand Challenges Scholars program gives you the opportunity to work on some of the most pressing societal challenges under the guidance and advisement of the best experts in your area of interest at NDSU. Find a GC Mentor and devise a project that is of interest to you, your mentor, and society, while also immersing in an interdisciplinary and broad curriculum!

Program Pillars

Research Experience for creative technical competency: Students will be involved in mentored research or creative experience in specific research areas of interest to the students as they try to address one or more of the Engineering Grand Challenges.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum for multidisciplinary competency: The program will gear the students towards understanding of multidisciplinary engineering system solutions, developed through engagement.

Entrepreneurship for business competency: Students will develop a clear understanding and preferably have experience necessary to develop a viable business model for solution implementation and business competency.

Global Experience for cultural competency: The program will emphasize on understanding of cultures, preferably through a multicultural/global experience, to ensure cultural acceptance of proposed solutions to the engineering grand challenges.

Service Learning for social consciousness competency: Students will have a clear understanding that solutions should primarily serve people and society, reflecting social consciousness. Service learning will be part of the program to promote social consciousness.

How do I apply?

Students that are interested in participating in the program will get all necessary information on how to design and write a research proposal in a seminar-type course ENGR 191: Engineering Grand Challenges Seminar. The end goal of the course is the submission of your proposal as part of your application for participating in the Grand Challenges Scholars program.

The seminar course will involve:

  • Topics of interest to the Grand Challenges communities and NDSU
  • Successful projects from other universities
  • Guidelines on how to write a successful proposal
  • Tips on how to present research ideas and results

Program Pathway

Year 1
Spring Semester:
  • Application and acceptance to the program
  • Project and mentor selection
Year 2
Fall Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • ENGR 310 (Entrepreneurship for Engineers and Scientists) or Approved entrepreneurship experience/seminar
Spring Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • Additional thematic course (optional)
Year 3
Fall Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • Additional thematic course (optional)
  • Global outreach/experience (in Summer)
Spring Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • Additional thematic course (optional)
  • Service learning activities
Year 4
Fall Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • Thematic Technical Elective (Independent Study)
  • Start work on Grand Challenge Thesis
  • Present thesis idea to Advisory Committee
  • Leadership activity/learning (ENGR 391 Seminar)
Spring Semester:
  • Work with mentor on research and development
  • Present thesis research (open forum)
  • Leadership activity/learning (ENGR 491 Seminar)
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