University of Vermont

College of

More than 1000 High School Students Launch Engineering Challenge

Release Date: 11-27-2006

Author: Jeffrey R. Wakefield
Phone: 802/656-2005 Fax: (802) 656-3203

More than 1000 top high school students from across Vermont and the US—as well as peers in Korea, China, India, Mexico and other parts of the world—are working in on-line teams to find real-world engineering solutions to help in the fight against global warming.

Through Global Challenge Inc., co-sponsored by the University of Vermont, teams will develop a business plan for a practical product, like a solar car or an advanced heat recapture system for office buildings.

The project’s organizers have been "amazed and delighted with the outpouring of interest and excitement. We expected a few hundred this year," said David Gibson who leads the Global Challenge. Though some recent reports have been gloomy about recruiting the next generation of American engineers, this project shows that "grassroots interest in the creative dimensions of engineering is very much alive," he said.

With "10 or 15 students signing up each day," Gibson sees the project’s sudden rise as a remarkable coming together of word-of-mouth excitement and "viral" internet activity. "We’ve been on a few scholarship websites and that has helped, but we don’t exactly know all the ways that people are hearing about this. All we know is that students from Africa to St. Johnsbury to New Zealand are signing up."

Additional students and their mentors can join the program now at The revised sign-up deadline is December 15, final designs will be reviewed by judges in April 2007, and winners announced June 1, 2007.

Winners will receive college scholarships and other awards.

Pairs of students first form a local team with an adult, then find a team—through the Global Challenge website—from another country to join with to form an international team. The international team is the basic unit team for the Global Challenge: 4 students and 2 adults from at least 2 countries.

Students can use the Global Challenge website to search for available teams by country, individual student names, and interests.

To develop this Global Challenge program, the University of Vermont’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, in partnership with Global Challenge Inc., has been awarded a three-year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $891,000.

The goal: help American high school students strengthen their skills in math, science, engineering and critical thinking, while learning about global business practices.

Each business plan must describe a manufacturing process and a global supply chain that uses at least 3 countries. Teams must explain what aspect of their product each country will make, and why they have chosen each country. Along the way, students will explore the underlying physics, environmental science, and math that make their product work and how it reduces the generation of greenhouse gases.

A total of 40 scholarships will be awarded to winning students whose designs and business plans are deemed the most creative and practical by a team of experts. For example, one Vermont team is partnered with a team in China. They’re building a business plan around an artificial intelligence device to recapture wasted heat in an office building; it will look for tiny sources of heat, like the friction of an elevator that could be redirected through sophisticated sensors.

For more information regarding the Global Challenge, visit or contact David Gibson.