National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars (GCS) Program

Mason will be joining 20 other schools in the country in helping students build the necessary engineering skills to solve one of Engineering's 14 Grand Challenges.  The program is built on 5 components ; Hands on Project or Research Experience; Interdisciplinary Curriculum; Entrepreneurship; Global Dimension; Service Learning. More information on the program can be found here

  1. Make solar energy economical
  2. Provide energy from fusion
  3. Provide access to clean water
  4. Reverse-engineer the brain
  5. Advance personalized learning
  6. Develop carbon sequestration methods
  7. Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
  8. Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  9. Advance health informatics
  10. Prevent nuclear terror
  11. Engineer better medicines
  12. Enhance virtual reality
  13. Manage the nitrogen cycle
  14. Secure cyberspace

More information on the challenges can be found here

Implementation of the GCS program at George Mason

The Volgenau School of Engineering (VSE) will pilot the Nation Academy of Engineering Grand Challenge Scholars program (GCS) through the newly established BS Mechanical Engineering (BSME) program. Although traditional experiences in mechanics, materials, thermal-fluids and design are components of the mechanical engineering program, alignment of the mechanical engineering curriculum with the NAE Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCS) will promote a vision for curriculum design and program innovation.  While project-based learning and the concept of a flipped classroom anchor the pedagogue for the curriculum, the concept of a flipped classroom becomes the framework for flipped communities in which our local and regional industries and corporation partners become more just than mentors but are invested partners with the faculty.   Communication, leadership, and teamwork - those professional skills and abilities that are critical to the success as a Grand Challenge Scholar - are targeted as out-of –classrooms experiences through this flipped community.  This harmony is expected to strengthen the student's awareness, providing them with a smoother transition into engineering practice.  Moreover, this flipped community provides the GCS student experiences to meet the needed service component by sharing their experiences working in high schools, professional societies and community activities region-wide. 

 All George Mason students that declare mechanical engineering as their major will start their progress towards completion of the GCS program by taking the ME 151 – Practicum for Mechanical Engineering.   In this freshman level course, students are exposed to algorithmic thinking, to visualization skills, and introduction to the Grand Challenge Scholars program.  Since the BSME has developed several unique ingress opportunities for students to enter into its BSME program – NOVA Dual Admission Compact, for instance– these students will have similar introductory experiences at their host university.  It is at this point in the academic careers of our students that they are introduced to their flipped professional community.  During the sophomore and junior years, GCS students will engaged in design projects that build upon the grand challenge identified in their freshman year.  Not only will their projects require knowledge of previous engineering courses but will require engagement from students from other majors campus wide to establish their multi/interdisciplinary nature.  It is envisioned that students majoring in political science, economics and sociology will entertain the political, economic and social impact of the design project, for instance.  Course work during the junior and seniors years will afford students entrepreneurial experiences.  In addition, Mason's undergraduate research experiences supported by the OSCAR program and study aboard programs offer students opportunities to enrich the research of the chosen grand challenge.

Changing the model used to educate engineering students can only gain benefit by implementing the NAE GCSP as a framework.  The Volgenau School of Engineering and the mechanical engineering program are committed to changing their models for the student body.

U.S. Engineering School Deans' Response to President Obama on Educating Engineers to Meet the Grand Challenges

In March of 2015, 158 Engineering School Dean's signed the letter shown here to help prepare future engineer's to meet society's grand challenges.