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Global Engineering Challenges Essay

There are global challenges that engineers face in society from ways to lessen our dependence to oil and protect the environment to ways to improve our surroundings and expand our reality and minds. A lot of these challenges will need engineers with vision and passion in order to come up with the solutions needed to improve the world around them. The three global challenges that will be covered in this paper are ways to lessen fuel consumption, how to restore and improve urban infrastructure and how to enhance virtual reality. These three global challenges reach into every part of the world and in every facet of society, which is why engineers are working on them now.

The role of engineers in society today can be seen everywhere in your daily lives, when you put gas in your car, the chemical engineer designed the fuel to run in an engine that was designed by an engineer that is in a car frame designed by another engineer. Today, engineers to grow more crops faster and to last longer on the grocery shelves after they have been picked modify even food. The roles of engineers have changed a bit for the times and society wants things designed to be greener and more environmentally friendly, to make the most of what resources the earth has, but also keep society comfortable and easy to use.

These global challenges are met head on by engineers because these problems will face society in the next ten years and even beyond. The three global challenges that will be covered in this paper are ways to lessen fuel consumption, how to restore and improve urban infrastructure and how to enhance virtual reality. These three global challenges reach into every part of the world and in every facet of society, which is why engineers are working on them now.

The first global challenge for engineers is to lessen fuel consumption, or more specific oil consumption. Oil is used to produce gas for cars, trucks, farming machines, airplanes and almost everything with a combustion engine. As anyone can see gas can be expensive and pollute the environment and the biggest consumption of gas is cars whether compact cars or big SUVs, which is why is important for engineers to design ways to lessen fuel use. The way to lessen fuel consumption is for engineers to design fuel alternatives, Dr. Richard Swanson; Founder of Sunpower (2008) said “An increasing trend has been observed in people preferring clean and affordable energy generated from renewable sources over the conventional non renewable sources.”

The cleanest supply of energy is solar, this energy is in endless supply from the sun, however the solar cells that are used today are only about 15% efficient which means that all the energy that hits the cell, only 15% is transferred to energy used by the cell, the other 85% is lost. Engineers will need to design more efficient solar cells and the technology is getting better every year, today solar cell can get up to a 40% efficiency in a lab, but the lab can be very different than the real world. If engineers could design a solar cell that is 50% efficient in the real world all the energy needs for a car would be met, which would take away our dependence of oil.

The next role engineers have in lessening fuel consumption is to design lighter materials. The heavier and object like a car or plane is, the more fuel that is needed to move the vehicle, so making the vehicle lighter means it will use less fuel. Materials like carbon fiber are being used today to make vehicles lighter because these materials are able to be lighter but just as strong as metals like steel. Materials such as composite materials with honeycomb matrices are being experimented with for wings to be used instead of spars, which will make the wings of a plane lighter so it will use less fuel. As different materials are designed they enable engineers to design vehicles that can be just as safe as they are now but can be lighter and use much less fuel.

The last aspect of the global challenge to lessen fuel consumption is to design vehicles more aerodynamic and energy efficient. As a vehicle moves, the air moving around it creates a force called drag that acts in the opposite direction of its velocity. The role of engineers is to design vehicles that lessen drag as much as possible so it will use less fuel. Whether it be planes or cars aerospace engineers use different shapes to lessen the drag for as much as possible, for example for planes winglets on the end of wings are designed to reduce induced drag, while cars are designed with rounder smoother shapes so the air will flow smoothly around the vehicle shell. All three roles are different ways engineers can lessen fuel consumption but the best way is to incorporate all three roles into a design to maximize the efficiency and in some cases even eliminate the use of gas as a fuel.

The second global challenge an engineer will face is how to restore and improve urban infrastructure. With the population of the world getting larger, cities are getting more populated and the challenge for engineers is how to improve the urban infrastructure so cities keep work efficiently and things don’t get too congested as populations grow. The first role of engineers would be to optimize urban space; this would entail making as much space as possible functional and having a purpose so as not to waste it. A great example of this is in Japan where the land is expensive so they have adapted to the space needed so not to waste space.

Dr Matt Jameson an Architectural engineer at the University of Purdue (2005) says, “The Japanese have shown great ingenuity in adapting to limited space. Because of the cost of land, houses are small by American standards. The rooms are separated by sliding screens and are sparsely furnished. People sleep on thin mattresses called futons that can be rolled up and stored during the day.” Here the space is maximized in urban areas by using simple techniques. Engineers can design things from buildings to furniture that uses urban space efficiently and sometimes the designs don’t have to be complex. These simple techniques help space be more useful and not wasted.

The second role of engineers is to design more efficient transportation. This would entail engineers to design transportation that would help a large number of people go from one place to another, help keep roads from getting jammed and congested and at the same time can be clean transportation to reduce smog. An example in phoenix would be the lightrail, which helps masses of people avoid the road and is efficient because it transports a large number of people and is an electric vehicle so it is also green. The downside is that the lightrail only runs east to west and would need more routes of travel because the freeways in phoenix still get jammed and congested. The roles of engineers in phoenix would be to design more routs that would maximize the amount of people it could transport in order to get more cars off the road and would save people time.

The third role would be to optimize urban energy needs, this would entail lessening the need for electricity from energy plants, or to be more self-dependant of energy. This would entail using the different energy around such as wind, water of sun energy, which is free, and in abundance. The role for engineers is to harness these energies and use them to have self-sufficient energy. For example in phoenix it is sunny days out of the year so here the energy most in abundance is the solar energy. An example of this is at asu where solar panels are being used to provide energy to run the school.

Asu is one of the top schools in the country for solar panel use and energy out put. To date the energy from the 58,000 solar panels in 14.8 megawatts (https://asunews.asu.edu/20120213_ASU_solar), ASU President Michael Crow (2010) says “Arizona State University strives to be a national and global leader in renewable energy and light-based research,” places where wind is very abundant wind mills are placed to harness and use this energy which makes these cities more energy efficient. To have more efficient solar panels designed the dependence on electric companies would be reduced and even eliminated.

The third global challenge is to enhance virtual reality. This challenge may seem as more of a way to enhance entertainment but the benefits from this area could help in all aspects of science and society. The first role for engineers would to design more advanced learning computers that can run faster and can process more complex information which would make images look more real. An example of this would be video games and how they have progressed from the Atari and pacman of the 1980’s, to Xbox and games of today that look very real. The realism of games can be correlated with how powerful the processors in the gaming consoles and can handle more complex game design.

The games look today look very real but are still far from having a look to where the eye can’t tell if it looks real or not. Another example is in the movies where they can create objects in the movie that look real, but they are still far from being able to make humans look real to the point where people would not know it was computer animation, the eye can still tell its not quite right. To mimic human movement, facial emotions, skin texture would entail much more powerful and intelligent computers and may need engineers to design computers so powerful that they can think and reacted for him or her in order to manipulate and process the complex information needed or a real virtual reality.

The second role for engineers would be to improve optics; this would help make things look more real by making them look clear. This would entail engineers to design advanced optics that may mimic the human eye so it can create images the eye would not be able to tell that its not real, this may also lead to breakthroughs that can be used in areas from astronomy and telescope lenses to hand held cameras that takes video that can be projected look like your in the picture.

The third role for this challenge is to design advanced holographic projection. Just a few months ago holograms were used at a concert where there was a hologram of a dead singer used at the concert. This technology is still relatively new but engineers will need to design hologram projection that would use advanced optics to get the light just right and advanced computers that can process the information. Imagine a person standing next to you that you thought was real but was not; it was just light put into a certain form to trick the eyes. This challenge is one seen in a lot of science fiction movies and written about in science fiction books, and with the right creative engineers it may come to fruition soon.

The global challenges covered in this paper from ways to lessen our dependence to oil and protect the environment to ways to improve our surroundings and open our reality and minds. A lot of these challenges will need engineers with vision and passion in order to come up wit the solutions needed to improve the world around them. Technology and engineering techniques are always improving and evolving with each new generation of engineers and technology. The roles for engineers are different in every way but the goals are come and soon things that were only written about in science book will come to life through the designs of engineers.


Swanson, R. (2008). Solarpower: The Next Step. Retrieved from


Jameson, M. (2005). _Less Space_: Architectural Design Aspects. University of Purdue Press.

Crow, M. (2010). Sustainability: ASU Solar Initiative Retrieved from https://asunews.asu.edu/20120213_ASU_solar

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