Student team advances to NAE Global Grand Challenges Summit competition

May 03, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A team of Penn State engineering and business students will serve as one of five teams representing the United States at the 2017 National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Global Grand Challenges Summit Student Day Competition on Tuesday, July 18, in Washington, D.C.

For the preliminary round of competition, teams from 11 universities from across the nation were asked to develop and present a business plan for a startup based on an idea or concept related to the NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering. The NAE defines these challenges as a call to action to bring society’s attention to opportunities and challenges affecting our quality of life.

In addition to Penn State, competing schools included Cleveland State University, North Carolina State University, University of Denver, New York Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, New Mexico Tech, University of California San Diego, University of North Dakota, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Southern California. Penn State, North Carolina State University, the University of California San Diego, University of Denver, and the University of Southern California will represent the United States in the competition finals. 

With guidance and input from Stephanie Velegol, senior lecturer in chemical engineering, and Meg Handley, associate director of engineering leadership outreach for the Engineering Leadership Development program, the Penn State team prepared a business plan for a sustainable moringa seed-coated sand filtration kit for low-income individuals in India. Team members include Kartik Singhal, aerospace engineering; Emma Clement, civil engineering; Zhilin Jia, material science engineering; Pufan Wang, mechanical engineering; and Anushka Kapur, finance.

Team members are also members of Penn State’s Engineering – Consulting Collaborative student organization. Singhal, president of Engineering – Consulting Collaborative, said the group aims to bring together the efforts of engineering and business students to foster the development of problem-solving and cross-discipline teamwork. He believes this an essential component of working in today’s corporate environment through involvement. Handley serves as the organization’s adviser.

Because the competition provides students with an opportunity to network with a diverse group of individuals, as well as meet renowned international experts in various fields, Singhal said members of Engineering – Consulting Collaborative are thrilled to be working toward solving NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering.  

“The summit sessions ensure interactions between the audience and speakers to forge new insights into the Grand Challenges for Engineering,” he said.

For the semifinals held in March, the team completed a customer delivery process to members of the NAE. To do so, the team completed close to 27 interviews and developed the pitch for its idea.

Currently, team members are conducting more interviews and completing research in Velegol’s lab at the University Park campus to prepare for the July finals. The team will compete against four teams from the United State, five teams from China, and five teams from England.

“It was amazing to see the students present their work at the NAE Grand Challenges Business Competition. They were so well prepared and learned important business concepts that they never would have learned in the classroom,” Velegol said.

Velegol added that the experience aided her research efforts on using crushed moringa seeds and sand to provide developing countries with clean water.

In addition to the team’s work for the 2017 Global Grand Challenges Summit, Singhal said the members of Engineering – Consulting Collaborative have also worked on projects for the PwC Challenge and Deloitte R.I.S.E. Advisory Case Competition. They have plans for additional conference and competition involvement in the coming semesters.

“Because of this collaborative effort, both engineering and business students gained valuable experience in working with a cross-disciplinary team,” he said. “We are looking toward a great upcoming semester with various cross-disciplinary competitions and conferences for students to gain valuable experiences and prepare for the corporate world.” 

 The Leonhard Center helped to provide funding for the group's conference and competition involvement. 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 03, 2017