Engineering the future


Engineering students demonstrating how their racing car can be driven by even those who are physically challenged.

With logical thinking and analytical skills, those who seek the engineering path are said to be more objective in solving pressing issues of the day.

ENGINEERS are the innovators, critical thinkers and problem solvers of the 21st century who are helping to improve our lives in many ways.

To ensure budding engineers are equipped with the necessary skills and mindset to build a better tomorrow, Taylor’s University School of Engineering has obtained approval from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) of the United States to kickstart the academy’s Grand Challenges Scholars Programme here.

Currently, Taylor’s University is the first institution outside North America to have a Grand Challenges Scholars Programme approved by NAE, the body that advises the US President on matters pertaining to engineering.

Taylor’s University School of Engineering Associate Professor Dr Satesh Narayana Namasivayam said the institution incorporated the programme as it gives vision, meaning and purpose to engineering education.

“The grand challenge gives engineering students a sense of direction.

The programme allows them to identify the pressing issues of the day, and helps them understand that humanity will be facing major threats in the 22nd century if the issues are not properly addressed now, he added.

Endorsed by US President Barack Obama, the programme combines curricular and extra-curricular programmes with five components including hands-on research projects.

This includes interdisciplinary experience, entrepreneurial experience, global dimension and service learning, as well as 14 challenges that are designed to prepare students to solve major issues facing society in this century.

NAE’s Grand Challenges Scholars and K12 Partners Program global chair and director Christina White said the programme also helps to expand the engineering workforce.

“This programme has given a narrative and purpose to engineering and it is broadening the pipeline. We’re seeing that it is attracting and retaining a more diverse group of students than ever before,” she said.

White said the grand challenges were identified in 2009 so that engineers could address the most depressing problems with innovative engineering solutions.

The programme also exposes students to skillsets required by the engineering industry, moulding them into “engineers of the future”.

“When engineers graduate, they do not graduate with a full set of skills that the workforce is looking for.

Students showing off their creation called the Dream Walker, a hand-controlled walking mechanism that aims to provide semi paraplegic people or those with weak legs the ability to walk again
Students showing off their creation called the Dream Walker, a hand-controlled walking mechanism that aims to provide semi paraplegic people or those with weak legs the ability to walk again

“The programme’s challenges range from advanced personalised learning to reverse brain engineering to preventing nuclear terror.

“This hones student’s skills such as having an entrepreneurial mind, connecting well with the community, as well as working globally.

“Engineers are the ones who are able to turn imagination into reality and that is something so powerful because the world would become a limitless place,” said White.

Dr Satesh noted there is a difference in students who participated in the programme from those who did not.

“The biggest difference between a scholar and non-scholar is their initiative in excelling in what they pursue.

“The amount of work they put in goes beyond what is required by our programme, and they’re doing it because they want to,” he said.

Dr Satesh is all for the NAE Grand Challenge which is beneficial to students and institutions.
White says that the NAE Grand Challenge will sharpen the skillsets of engineering students and prepare them for the working world.

Dr Satesh added that obtaining NAE’s approval was a laborious and trying task.

“We went through a thorough process of revisions and meetings for about 18 months to meet NAE’s high expectations,” he said.

White explained that institutions interested in applying for the Grand Challenge have to appreciate the various levels of processes that go into making an effective grand scholars programme.

Dr Satesh hoped that other institutions here will follow suit.

White says that the NAE Grand Challenge will sharpen the skillsets of engineering students and prepare them for the working world.
Dr Satesh is all for the NAE Grand Challenge which is beneficial to students and institutions.

“Imagine the thousands of engineering graduates coming out from Malaysia every year and if their focus is to address one grand challenge, the impact would be huge.

For more information, go to nae.edu.

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