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Grand Challenge Summit concludes

RALEIGH — The second annual Raleigh regional summit on the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges—one of five regional events leading up to the National Grand Challenge Summit Meeting in Los Angeles, Calif.—ends today at the Raleigh Marriott City Center.

The purpose of the summit is to encourage students to think about critical problems in society and to view their education in a creative way, said Deborah Hill, director of communications for the Pratt School of Engineering.

“These problems are not going to be solved by one group alone. It’s going to take complex and creative groups of people,” Hill said.

The regional summit began Wednesday and is hosted by Duke and North Carolina State University. Administrators estimate that more than 600 students and faculty from southeastern schools registered for the summit. Forty-three students presented posters displaying projects that aimed to solve the 14 Grand Challenges outlined by the Academy.

Lecturers spoke on a broad scope of topics, such as the sustainability of energy and the availability of clean water. Speakers included John Chambers, chair and Chief Executive Officer of Cisco Systems, and Kristina Johnson, under secretary of energy and former dean of Pratt.

Sophomore Amanda Britt won first place for her design of an X-ray development timer, aimed at improving the quality of developing X-rays manually. She will advance to the National Grand Challenge Summit meeting in October.

“The presentations that were going on all day were fascinating. It was so interesting to hear all the speakers and experts in a lot of different fields,” Britt said. “I got some new ideas that will hopefully help me further my project.”

The Grand Challenges encompass several broad themes, including sustainability, health, security, the joy of living and taking a global perspective on engineering, said John Gilligan, professor of nuclear engineering at N.C. State.

Administrators said the Research Triangle provided a unique environment for the summit. Duke’s innovations in medical engineering coupled with N.C. State’s research in nuclear fusion and security augment the status of the Triangle in the scientific community, Gilligan said.

The summit strengthens the relationship between Duke and N.C. State, and by doing so, promotes fundraising for research and attracts government projects and private businesses, said Geoffrey Ginsburg, director of the Center for Genomic Medicine in the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy.

Nancy Allbritton, chair of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State’s joint department of biomedical engineering, said the Triangle is a “vibrant area.”

“[The summit] enhances the image of the Research Triangle on multiple levels,” she said.


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