In 2008, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st Century, a set of exceptionally complex problems associated with national security, quality of life, and a sustainable future. Understanding the extent to which engineering students are interested in these complex problems and the extent to which they feel confident that they can contribute to the solution of these problems could serve as a starting point to foster engagement with the Grand Challenges. This paper presents results from a survey of mechanical engineering (ME) students’ interest in the NAE Grand Challenges and their confidence in their ability to contribute to resolutions of the Challenges. Seventy-six sophomore mechanical engineering majors completed the survey composed of 36 examples of problems described within the NAE Challenge report. Survey results show a strong relationship between students’ interest and their confidence in meeting a challenge. Six students participated in a semi-structured interview regarding their experience with and knowledge of the Challenges. Interview results indicated the students had few course-related experiences that exposed them to the Challenges. Results of this study can contribute to a broader conversation among ME educators about ways to integrate the NAE Grand Challenges in undergraduate engineering education.

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