The Engineers of Tomorrow

As many of you already know, the IEEE is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Actually, the anniversary day was May 13, but the organization is promoting special events around the world throughout the year to highlight the occasion.

One such event held recently was the IEEE Presidents' Change the World Competition. As noted on the IEEE website,, the competition “recognizes students who took on the challenge of developing unique solutions to real-world problems using engineering, science, computing, and leadership skills to benefit their community and/or humanity.” The winners were presented their awards at the IEEE Honors Ceremony on June 25.

The competition was open to any IEEE Student Member who could participate as an individual or as a leader of a team made up of members or nonmembers. The member must be in charge of the project, but using outside technical and financial help was acceptable. Outside mentors could only advise the students and not assume any leadership role.

Submissions had to include the problem description, the proposed solution, and the impact the solution would have on humanity or a community. Entries had to be submitted by the end of February to be reviewed and ranked by the regional student activities chairs. A global judging committee then determined the top 15 entries from which recent presidents of the IEEE selected the winners.

The top prize of $10,000 was awarded to a team from Stanford University for a Hand-Held Diagnostic Laboratory. The device would find particular application in third-world countries where adequate medical care is limited or practically nonexistent. The instrument can simultaneously detect eight different disease-specific proteins, providing results in a colored-light display without requiring skilled technicians or expensive laboratory equipment. Also, it is anticipated the hand-held device could be used as a home diagnostic tool in the United States.

A team from Hubli, India, took second place with its Electronic Aids for Physically/Mentally Handicapped Children. The project consisted of two modules: a Walking Tutor and Chitra Vallari. The Walking Tutor was designed as a leg-movement aid to help children with muscular dystrophy, for example, to exercise their joints. The goal of Chitra Vallari was to improve the children's cognitive abilities such as speech training. The theme of the project strived to make the training aids more enjoyable and fun to use. To that end, the team incorporated fancy lighting and music to make the aid more like a game instead of an exercise regimen.

Harking back a couple of centuries or more for the theme of this entry, the third-place prize went to a team from Rowan University in New Jersey for a human-powered grain crusher. The crusher can be powered by a bicycle or, if electricity is available, an electric motor. The team placed extra emphasis in finding ways to reduce costs and finally ended up with $224 for the crusher itself, a significant savings over previous designs.

Contests such as this one create opportunities for individuals to participate in solving real-world problems and hopefully foster the study of engineering and science in college. It is important that industry and academia work closely together to find ways to cultivate and build a strong engineering community.

Paul Milo
Editorial Director
[email protected]

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