Can high schoolers solve climate change problems?

NSF awards $891,000 to University of Vermont for Global Engineering Challenge

Over the next year, top high school students across Vermont and the US will be partnering with peers in Korea, China and India to find real-world engineering solutions to help in the fight against climate change. Working together through on-line challenges, teams will develop a business plan for a practical product. Winners will receive college scholarships and other awards.

To develop this Global Challenge program, the University of Vermont's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), in partnership with Global Challenge, LLC, has been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $891,000.The goal: help American high school students strengthen their skills in math, science, engineering and critical thinking, while learning about global business practices.

Students and their mentors can join the program now at The sign-up deadline is October 15, final designs will be reviewed by judges in April 2007, and winners announced June 1, 2007.

The project will partner students ages 14-17 from America with students from Asia in teams of four. This year, each team will plan the development of a product that contributes to solving some aspect of global climate change and the energy future, like a solar powered car or energy efficient refrigerator.

Each business plan must describe a manufacturing process and a global supply chain that uses at least 3 countries. Teams must explain what aspect of their product each country will make, and why they have chosen each country. Along the way, students will explore the underlying physics, environmental science, and math that make their product work and how it reduces the generation of greenhouse gases.

A total of 40 scholarships will be awarded to winning students whose designs and business plans are deemed the most creative and practical by a team of experts.

The idea for the Global Challenge came from Craig DeLuca, co-founder and a director of The Arno Group, LLC in Stowe, VT. "We need a global perspective to address global problems," DeLuca explains, "so I decided to challenge American high school students to tackle issues confronting the globe, to work in teams with teenagers in countries that will be our most profound partners in the years ahead, and to learn advanced math and science and have fun doing it."

Last year, results from a pilot program with high school students from two Vermont high schools, Stowe High School and People's Academy, and counterpart schools in India and China proved the success of the approach.

"Engineering is a rewarding career with important social relevance," says Domenico Grasso, dean of UVM's College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS). In explaining the importance of a project such as the Global Challenge, Grasso points to Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, that shows the growing interconnection of the world's economies and cultures.

"The flatter the world gets," Friedman says, "the more important it is [that] kids develop a global perspective to problem solving and a global network of colleagues to collaborate with on solving their problems."

Grasso and Josie Herrera, director of Diversity and Special Programs in the College of Engineering, will work with education expert Dr. David Gibson, an adjunct professor in the College of Engineering, to lead the program. "We have a real opportunity to create technological solutions to global issues, [such as] global warming, world hunger, energy issues and clean water," Gibson says.


For more information regarding the Global Challenge, visit or contact David Gibson at [email protected].

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Apr 2016
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