10/06/2008

Great engineering challenges of the future

I wish I'd been an engineer. My dad is one, but I don't think he ever sufficiently conveyed to me what he did. From an early age, I was pretty convinced that he drove trains. Somehow, that mental image stuck and I never quite made the connections I needed to understand why math and science were so important.

I wish I had been able to take a look at something like this from the National Academy of Engineering when I was 10 or 11. I would have liked to have had more direction when I was younger. What are the grand challenges for the future, and how can they be solved?
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Provide access to clean water
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Advance health informatics
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
In these current economic times, I can't help but think that investing in the research and development it will take to address these challenges. If I had limitless funds and could do anything with my life, it would be to go back to school to study to be an engineer. I'm particularly interested in "restore and improve urban infrastructure" as you might expect. At least I get to write about it locally.

Another thing to note is that one of the committee members is Wesley Harris, the first African-American to finish the Engineering Honors program at the University of Virginia.
Harris also address the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society, the podcast of which can be heard at the Charlottesville Podcasting Network.

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