Skip to content
Engineering Vols Lauren Jennings and Will Buttrey toured sites such as the London Eye while attending the Global Grand Challenges Summit in September 2019.

Engineering Vols Tackle Grand Challenges in London

Engineering Vols Lauren Jennings and Will Buttrey experienced the 2019 Global Grand Challenges Summit in London, England, in September. Dean Janis Terpenny, Professor Kevin Kit, director of the Cook Grand Challenge Honors Program, and Assistant Professor Stephanie TerMaath also attended.

The summit, hosted by Britain’s Royal Academy of Engineering, brought together 300 students from the US, UK, and China, plus world leaders and other changemakers for collaborations that address the 14 Grand Challenges of Engineering set forth by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE).

“This was a great opportunity for Lauren and Will to collaborate with students from China and the UK and apply their engineering and entrepreneurial skills to develop an engineering solution and business case,” said Kit. “I think both the student competition and the speakers at the Summit gave them good perspective on the challenges that we face in the 21st century and the work that’s being done to face them.”

Buttrey and Jennings represented UT, the United States, and the National Academy of Engineering to address the biggest challenges engineers have to face by 2050, particularly how AI, climate change, and population growth will affect society and the planet at large.

“I’m so very proud of Will and Lauren,” said Terpenny. “Their innovativeness, energy, communication skills, and humble demeanor are wonderful qualities. They provided outstanding representation of the Tickle College of Engineering and UT as a whole. My sincere thanks to them and their mentors who supported their participation and continue to support their education and personal growth.”

In the summit’s Student Collaboration Lab, they joined teams with members from around the world to develop and pitch an engineering and business solution to sustainably address these issues.

“My team presented a device that would separate out hazardous waste from plastic recycling in order to tap into the $200 billion global plastic recycling industry,” said Buttrey. “And to increase the amount of plastic that is recycled, considering only 9% of plastic is recycled today.”

Jennings and team worked on sanitation service technology to decrease excess water consumption and contamination.

“I enjoyed working, learning, and exploring London with the other students,” said Jennings. “The content of this event was challenging and inspiring, and the connections I made with the high-achieving, driven students in attendance are invaluable.”

“The summit itself was a great space where engineering leaders of the past, present, and future could discuss what direction engineering should be heading by 2050,” said Buttrey.

“The summit focused on the effects AI will have on humanity and how to sustain 10 billion people on our planet by 2050,” said Jennings. “This event provided the opportunity for conversation about these issues among experts from many different fields and backgrounds and to educate more people about these pressing issues.”

“Listening to speakers of all ages, backgrounds, and passions really invigorated me to be a more conscious and globally-aware engineer,” added Buttrey. “It was such an honor to represent our university on the international stage.”

“I personally enjoyed the great opportunity to meet and network with thought leaders from around the world and be a part of conversations about the needs and big ideas of how best to prepare/educate engineers to lead and contribute to a better world,” said Terpenny.

The two students also had a traditional British meal of fish, chips, and mushy peas for dinner with Terpenny, TerMaath, and Kit.

“The information I learned and advice I received during these three days expanded my perspectives on global issues and changed the way I think about engineering,” said Jennings. “I thank the Grand Challenge Scholars Program for providing opportunities for students to grow and learn outside the classroom and to the college for supporting my participation. I am so grateful to have attended this event and met many incredible students, mentors, and leaders who I am confident will make a positive impact on our world in the years to come.”

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

View our Privacy Policy.