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12 students selected as Grand Challenges Scholars

By Jeremy Henderson

Published: Jun 19, 2019 10:00:00 AM

The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering's inaugural class of Grand Challenges Scholars. The Samuel Ginn College of Engineering's inaugural class of Grand Challenges Scholars.

Twelve students in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering have been selected as Auburn University's first participants in the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program.

Last fall, the NAE tapped the college to be a participating institution in the program, which was established in 2008 to prepare engineers to tackle 14 specific challenges facing the planet in the 21st century.

"As the first Grand Challenge Scholars at Auburn, these students have a unique opportunity and responsibility to grow as engineers and impact society," said Edward Davis, director of the Auburn Grand Challenges Scholars Program and assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

The 14 grand challenges include: advancing personalized learning, making solar energy economical, enhancing virtual reality, reverse-engineering the brain, engineering better medicines, advancing health informatics, restoring and improving urban infrastructure, securing cyberspace, providing access to clean water, providing energy from fusion, preventing nuclear terror, managing the nitrogen cycle, developing carbon sequestration methods and engineering the tools of scientific discovery.

Grand Challenges Scholar Brittany Ransom said her desire to improve infrastructure drew her to the program.

"I desire to play a key role in positively impacting the lives of many by creating homes, places of work and especially schools that purposefully uplift people," said the sophomore in mechanical engineering. "Without even knowing it, every single person’s environment has a direct effect on who they are and how they live their lives."

The college’s vision for the Grand Challenges participants includes not only broader educational experience, but real world student and graduate engagement in the multi-disciplinary problem-solving necessary to enhance health, security and overall quality of life.

Davis said he couldn't be happier with the college's first Grand Challenges Scholars class.

"Reading the applications, I was struck by the high level of commitment they have already demonstrated to improving the world," he said. "This is truly a great group of students."

The college’s 2019-2020 Grand Challenges Scholars class includes:

Benjamin Barrontine, senior in industrial and systems engineering

Watson Copeland, sophomore in aerospace engineering

Daniel Michael, freshman in mechanical engineering

Grace Gray, junior in mechanical engineering

John Guglielmi, junior in mechanical engineering

Ayden Kemp, freshman in aerospace and biosystems engineering

Riley Locke, freshman in computer science

Isabel Perry, senior in mechanical engineering

Steven Porterfield, junior in materials engineering

Brittany Ransom, sophomore in mechanical engineering

Wilson Russell, junior in industrial and systems engineering

Devin Taylor, junior in mechanical engineering

Media Contact: Jeremy Henderson,, 334-844-3591

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