ASEE Zone 2 Conference 2017

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Engineering Curriculum for a Global Village

Final Paper
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At a 2003 Energy & Nanotechnology Conference at Rice University, noted scientist and Nobel Prize winner R.E. Smalley presented the following list of the top 10 problems of humanity for the next 50 years: 1) Energy, 2) Water, 3) Food, 4) Environment, 5) Poverty, 6) Terrorism and War, 7) Disease, 8) Education, 9) Democracy and 10) Population. These problems have a few characteristics in common. They are challenging and complex, are interconnected, have a high degree of uncertainty, are global in scope, and require multiple perspectives. For engineers who pride themselves as problem solvers, meeting these challenges demands of them decisions that not only require technical expertise but also a keen understanding of broad, socio-humanistic contexts and considerations. We, in academia, must ask the crucial question: Are we preparing our students to tackle these real-life global challenges?
In this paper, I will address this question and propose that the current curriculum in various engineering disciplines move beyond conventional silo-based contents to holistic programs that integrate interdisciplinary inquiry into the core courses and prepare students for global engagement through the use of overseas student exchanges, global academic partnerships, and emerging technologies. As an example, I will present a curriculum for a four-year Mechanical Engineering degree program that blends human and social sciences, applied sciences, communication and leadership with the required math and core mechanical courses. To introduce students to interdisciplinary research and outreach, the curriculum requires them to undertake a multi-year project(s) to reach out to developing communities locally or globally and assist them in self-reliance through sustainable technologies and practices. I believe that by embracing these more encompassing perspectives in learning and discovery, we will prepare our students for careers addressing global problems.


Roop Mahajan    
Mechanical Engineering
Virginia Tech
United States


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