The University of Texas (UT) at El Paso is hosting an international engineering conference on campus to address critical problems affecting the planet. The National Academy of Engineering has called engineers to action by identifying the 14 “Grand Challenges” that need to be solved to ensure the planet’s survival. They address issues including quality of life and health, sustainability, and renewable energy. More than 80 research and government institutions from the US, Europe, Latin America, and Canada will participate in the three-day conference that will focus on finding innovative solutions to challenges that face our society. The 14 “Grand Challenges” include: 1. Providing access to clean water 2. Preventing nuclear terror 3. Engineering better medicines 4. Advancing health informatics – Developing better health information systems to improve medical visits, counter pandemics and biological or chemical attacks. 5. Making solar energy economical 6. Developing carbon sequestration methods -- capturing and storing excess carbon dioxide to prevent global warming 7. Securing cyberspace 8. Reverse-engineering the brain – engineers are trying to create computers capable of emulating human intelligence. 9. Managing the nitrogen cycle – Engineers can help restore balance to the nitrogen cycle with better fertilization technologies and by capturing and recycling waste. Controlling the impact of agriculture on the global cycle of nitrogen is a growing challenge for sustainable development. 10. Providing energy from fusion – Fusion is the energy source for the sun. Human-engineered fusion has been demonstrated on a small scale. The challenge is to scale up the process to commercial proportions, in an efficient, economical, and environmentally benign way. 11. Restoring and improving urban infrastructure 12. Engineering the tools of scientific discovery 13. Enhancing virtual reality -- Virtual reality is an illusory environment, engineered to give users the impression of being somewhere they are not. It can be used for training, treatment, and communication. 14. Advancing personalized learning -- Instruction can be individualized based on learning styles, speeds, and interests to make learning more reliable. According to organizers, the mission of the conference is to enhance student interest in engineering and science and emphasize the critical role engineers play in solving issues that affect our planet. The goal is to identify opportunities for synergetic research and strategic partnerships among research universities, Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and industry; to identify the actions needed to create a culture of collaboration that facilitates the formation of research partnerships; and to showcase the capabilities of faculty from MSIs. Researchers from different disciplines, industries, and educational institutions will engage in discussions, share best practices for successfully establishing partnerships, and identify what is needed to overcome obstacles to creating alliances among universities, industries, and national laboratories. “With a tremendous effort by the members of the organizing committee, we have been able to attract some of the brightest minds in the world in the areas of energy, urban infrastructure, and biomedical technology to UTEP for this conference” said Richard Schoephoerster, dean for the College of Engineering. Keynote speakers include: • Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from UT in 1980 and an MBA from Arizona State University. He previously served as Director of the Arizona Department of Transportation. • Ray Orbach, director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin. Orbach earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1956 and his PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley. Orbach served as the US Department of Energy’s first undersecretary for science. • Semahat S. Demir, director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the National Science Foundation (NSF). Demir has led, developed, and/or participated in 15 NSF and interagency funding programs. She is a fellow of the American Institute of Medical and Biomedical Engineers (AIMBE) and has received 55 professional awards and honors. “The recommendations coming as a result of the discussions over the three-day event will set the stage for research and development into these pressing societal needs, and UTEP will be positioned as a major participant in those efforts,” Schoephoerster said. The event is sponsored by the National Science Foundation with additional support from industry sponsors Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Lockheed Martin, Shell and Boeing. The “Building Partnerships and Pathways to Address Engineering Grand Challenges Conference” will take place Feb. 8-10 at Union Building East, third floor, Tomás Rivera Conference Center. The event is open to the public. To register, log on here.
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