engineering challenges

Throughout human history, engineering has driven the advance of civilization.

Grand Challenges for Engineering

From the metallurgists who ended the Stone Age to the shipbuilders who united the world’s peoples through travel and trade, are marvels of engineering. Twentieth century engineering accomplishments include widespread development and distribution of electricity and clean water, automobiles and airplanes, radio and television, spacecraft and lasers, antibiotics and medical imaging, and computers and the Internet. Engineering revolutionized and improved virtually every aspect of human life. As the population grows and its needs and desires expand, sustaining civilization’s continuing advancement, while still improving the quality of life, present continuing engineering challenges..

Applying the rules of reason, the findings of science, the aesthetics of art, and the spark of creative imagination, engineers will continue the tradition of forging a better future.


  • food * agriculture * clean water
  • material and tools * metal
  • travel and trade * ships * navigation * automobiles * airplanes * highways
  • communication * distribution of electricity * radio and television * computers and the Internet
  • health and medicine * antibiotics * medical imaging
  • exploration – spacecraft and lasers

Greatest Engineering Achievements of the 21st Century – Explore our list of the top 20 achievements and learn how engineering shaped a century and changed the world.

  • 1. Electrification 2. Automobile 3. Airplane 4. Water Supply and Distribution 5. Electronics 6. Radio and Television 7. Agricultural Mechanization 8. Computers 9. Telephone 10. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration 11. Highways 12. Spacecraft 13. Internet 14. Imaging 15. Household Appliances 16. Health Technologies 17. Petroleum and Petrochemical Technologies 18. Laser and Fiber Optics 19. Nuclear Technologies 20. High-performance Materials

The 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering

  • Make Solar Energy Economical
  • Provide Energy from Fusion
  • Develop Carbon Sequestration Methods
  • Manage the Nitrogen Cycle
  • Provide Access to Clean Water * personal use — drinking, cleaning, cooking, and removal of waste * large-scale use such as irrigation for agriculture * desalinating sea water * local water purification
  • Restore and Improve Urban Infrastructure
  • Advance Health Informatics * track the spread of disease * analyze the comparative effectiveness of different approaches to prevention and therapy.
  • Engineer Better Medicines * vaccines and antiviral drugs
  • Reverse-Engineer the Brain * helping treat diseases * computerized artificial intelligence
  • Prevent Nuclear Terror
  • Secure Cyberspace * identity theft * computer viruses
  • Enhance Virtual Reality
  • Advance Personalized Learning
  • Engineer the Tools of Scientific Discovery