The Future of Engineering Education and Research
The goal of NSF’s Engineering Research Center (ERC) Program is to combine discovery and technological innovation in engineering research and education to create advanced technology and produce graduates who will be creative innovators. NC State has the distinction of leading two ERCs on campus.
May 29, 2015 NC State ECE
The National Science Foundation (NSF) sees engineering education and research as two of the key building blocks in creating a sustainable and prosperous future. The goal of NSF’s Engineering Research Center (ERC) Program is to combine discovery and technological innovation in engineering research and education to create advanced technology and produce graduates who will be creative innovators.
NC State has the distinction of leading two ERCs: the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) Systems Center and the Nanosystems Engineering Research for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST) Center. Both centers have facilities located on Centennial Campus and are paving the way in research and development in energy systems and nanotechnology, respectively.
During a two-day visit in November, Dr. Pramod Khargonekar, NSF’s assistant director for engineering, toured the globally recognized James B. Hunt Jr. Library, spoke at a special seminar and received a personal tour of the ASSIST Center and the FREEDM Systems Center.
“I am excited to learn more about the kind of research they are doing,” Khargonekar said during the visit. “I hope to meet some of the faculty involved and students as well. I just expect to learn a lot about what’s going on here and get a hands-on feel for what NSF is sponsoring.”
After touring the ASSIST and FREEDM facilities and Hunt Library and meeting with deans and department heads, Khargonekar delivered a talk on what NSF sees as the most important opportunities and challenges in engineering education and research.
“There are two parts to my visit,” Khargonekar stated. “One is to share with the community here what we see as important issues that NSF is trying to address. We want to share our vision. We want to share what it is that we are seeking to achieve from an NSF point of view.”
Khargonekar addressed the growing importance of nanotechnology in relation to the biomedical frontier and the role of the Internet in energy and production, among other important research issues.
He remarked, “(The Internet) is the factory of the future. We are on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution because of the integration of cyber advancements.”
But he did not see his visit exclusively as an opportunity to address the issues that are important to NSF.
“At the same time, we want to learn from the community of scholars here as to what they see as the most exciting research opportunities in the field of engineering. So it’s a two-way dialogue where I hope to pick the brains of the best and brightest at NC State and at the same time communicate to them the larger picture from the National Science Foundation of what we see as the future.”
This two-way discussion is vital to addressing what Khargonekar sees as an important issue: improving the public’s understanding of science and technology in general. Students and researchers in science and technology must communicate with policy makers and the public on their level. This will create more opportunities for sufficient funding and support for these vital areas, he said.
“(This is) a very fine college of engineering and a great research university,” Khargonekar said. “There is already great interaction with the community. I think the world is full of opportunities and challenges. And I think Lincoln said it best, ‘The best way to predict the future is to create it.'”
Source: NC State Engineering Spring-Summer 2015 Magazine