Global Grand Challenges Summit in London
By far the most impactful part of this event was making meaningful relationships and being surrounded by individuals that are deeply passionate about global issues and driven to develop solutions to create positive change.

Name: Emily Cho

Major: Mechanical Engineering

Can you share a description of the experience? "The Global Grand Challenges Summit is an event designed to convene “inspirational world leaders with the next generation of engineers and changemakers to build creative collaborations and solve the grand challenges facing our future world of 10 billion people.” The 3-day Summit brings together members from the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) along with students and professors around the world. The Summit hosted a wide range of talks on global issues and how engineering solutions can improve the world.

Prior to the Summit, there was a 5-day student collaboration lab (co-lab) where students around the world were paired into mixed-country teams to participate in an engineering innovation hackathon. This hackathon involved teams containing students from the U.S., U.K., and China,  having ~24 hours to come up with a technological innovation and business model that aimed to solve the questions: Can we sustain 10 billion people and will AI change humanity for the better? After a total of ~48 hours and pitching to 2 rounds of judging panels, my team was selected as one of the winning finalists of the innovation hackathon and we had the opportunity to pitch our idea at the Summit to the 900+ individuals in attendance and watching the broadcast. "

What was the most impactful part of the experience? By far the most impactful part of this event was making meaningful relationships and being surrounded by individuals that are deeply passionate about global issues and driven to develop solutions to create positive change. The majority of students in attendance were selected by their schools due to their involvement with the Global Grand Challenges Scholars program, and I also met many students deeply involved with their schools’ Engineers Without Borders’ programs. This passionate energy, combined with the many speakers and collaborative workshops, led to many thought-provoking discussions and learning opportunities.

What surprised you? One of the most surprising things I experienced came from my collaboration with my teammates for the innovation hackathon. I was amazed at how similar we all were - despite all of our differences amongst cultures, experiences, and majors, our team met and seamlessly focused and worked together on our collective goal. Our team bonded and created a great team dynamic that was clear in our pitching, and I strongly believe that was an integral factor in advancing through the various rounds. On the flip side of that, I was also surprised by how our differences actually led us to develop an overall pitch that was much more multifaceted than would have been possible alone. Most of my team were not engineering majors (business/CS/science), which was surprising as most students there were in engineering, but I really enjoyed it because we were able to put our various academic strengths together and in the ‘real world’ all these different industries have to work together to create a final product.

Did you make any personal connections with your peers, industry professionals, faculty or staff? To this day, I am still in close contact with many of the students I met, and I love the support and enthusiasm we have for one another. Hearing about all of their accomplishments - such as developing innovative start-up/businesses, winning student competitions, being recruited to serve on committees at the White House, getting a job at a company they deeply value, or even getting through a tough academic semester with vigor - is so inspiring. As my co-lab team has continued working on our idea after the Summit, I keep in close contact and have continued developing my relationships with my teammates. We all have the utmost respect and a ‘learning’ attitude for one another, so it’s been really awesome to continue collaborating with them. I also developed a great relationship with my team’s mentor and have also continuously been in contact with her. She currently works for Intel and recently received SWE’s prism award. She has accomplished and experienced so much, so I’m grateful that she has been and continues to be a fantastic mentor to my team and myself.

Have your career or academic goals changed as a result of this experience? It’s difficult to say definitively as I am still figuring things out and exploring different industries, but I will say that broadening my awareness and understanding of global issues and ways to solve them, as well as having met people that are great to talk with and receive their advice has been really useful in moving forward. I’m more encouraged to think about the ‘bigger picture’, and how I can use my skill set to help create solutions and make an impact.