ISyE Freshmen Make Impact in Georgia Tech’s New Grand Challenges Program

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This past year, Georgia Tech introduced the Grand Challenges Living Learning Community, a new program for incoming freshman that offers students the opportunity to participate in a unique, multidisciplinary learning lab. The program formed a fun and innovative community for these students.  They lived together in Howell Hall and worked in cross-disciplinary teams on different projects to solve some of the grand challenges facing society, specifically on the relationship between food, water, energy, and healthcare. Out of the 110 students who participated, seven were industrial engineering students.

During the program, Dima Nazzal, ISyE director of student services, presented a session on the types of projects the Georgia Tech Health and Humanitarian Logistics Center,a unit of ISyE, have been working on with their partnering humanitarian and relief agencies.

“We hope to instill a passion in these students as we help to develop the skills needed to integrate engineering tools and methods with sustainable practices early on in their education so that when they graduate, they will be prepared to make a real difference in this world.” said Nazzal.


Shifting Perspectives through Freshman Grand Challenges

By Ethan Smith

Freshmen year could have been daunting, but the Grand Challenges program made my freshmen year more interesting. I got to know such passionate and driven students, and now I’ll have many great friends during the rest of my time at Georgia Tech.

Back in high school, I imagined college would mean a lot of independent work and studying by yourself. But Grand Challenges changed that belief. Through the program,

I’ve learned that many things in my future will be a group effort. For example, I didn’t realize the benefits of studying with my classmates but it has helped me tremendously during my first year at Tech. If I had problems under- standing a concept, I had a support system to help me, and if I understood a topic, I was there for others who needed help. Future industrial engineering classes will be no different, and I’ll continue this tradition of teamwork.

It’s interesting but I feel like Grand Challenges made me a much more agreeable person. In high school, I was very headstrong and opinionated. I always took charge in group projects and made sure everything went my way. However, many people in Grand Challenges are just the same way. Everyone wants to succeed and voice their ideas. So I realized that it’s not important that I get my way; it’s more important that everyone is heard and satisfied. When everyone agrees, things run much more smoothly. With seven other people on our Grand Challenges team, it was a struggle at first to figure out how to work together effectively, but after a while, it was easy because I work with such talented and hard-working people.

For our project, we are designing an energy recovery system that collects grey water and rainwater. Using gravity, the water will spin turbines to generate electrical power. We hope to find a way to make this concept not only energy efficient, but also cost effective. If the idea is feasible, we plan on installing these machines across Georgia Tech’s campus and beyond. The members of my team are Brandon Byers (EE), Edwin Goh (AE), Jacqui Green (ME), Sarah Jones (CE), Colin Kelsall (ME), and Zac Zachow (ME).

My favorite memory was the Grand Challenges banquet where Rob Butera, Wes Wynens, and Kari White, the Grand Challenges leaders, announced that our project would get funding. It was memorable because I got to reflect on all the hard work our group put in to this project. This project has certainly been stressful and took a high level of dedication, but it was definitely worth it, and it was great to celebrate our group’s progress at the banquet.


Freshman Grand Challenges: Solving Problems with No Simple Answers

By Misha Desai

The project my group worked on during Freshmen Grand Challenges was titled Georgia Tech Encouraging Childhood Health. This project enhanced my freshman experience because it gave me the opportunity to work with other students from a variety of disciplines to solve problems with no known solution. At first, we came into this program expecting ourselves to come up with unquestionable, concrete, and simple solutions to some really difficult world problems.  The open-endedness of the program became a very big challenge for many students, including myself, to overcome. Throughout this project, I learned how to analyze information and adapt ideas to fit real world limitations. Because we knew that this project had the potential to be funded, we had to be conscious of setting feasible goals and ensuring that all our objectives were backed up with data and facts. Over time, it became clear that many of the problems that the groups were tackling did not have one specific and simple answer. Instead, we learned that the very essence of solving some of society’s problems were in multi-faceted solutions that not only addressed the core issue, but also potential problems that could arise.

The goal of this project is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity by using elementary schools as a vehicle to promote healthy lifestyles.

Our program is based on two main concepts: an interactive school play that encourages active learning and an interactive website and pedometer tool that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and learn more about fitness. Our program targets early elementary school children through use of the arts to teach the importance of proper dietary choices and exercise habits. The program will also use interactive media to promote healthy lifestyles because computers and interactive programs have been shown to be an effective tool for student education. If successful, the implementation of the solution would result in students and parents who are more knowledgeable about healthy dietary choices and physical fitness, and are better prepared for healthier lifestyles.

My favorite memory from last year was when my group was awarded the Best Proposal during the Grand Challenges Banquet and also found out that our project would be funded. It was great to see how our hard work and persistence during the semester paid off. As a group, we encountered a lot of challenges and frustrations during the second semester. However, we made sure to keep our progress moving and we were persistent in making sure that we produced quality work. Now, our project is finally coming to fruition. This year, we added a web developer to our team to help us complete the development of the website. We have also been working with the mayor of Duluth, a vice principal, two teachers, and two physical education teachers to implement our program in the spring. Over the course of fall semester, we will be working on developing lesson plans, addressing website challenges, attending various conferences, and looking into how to make the program more sustainable through new partnerships and collaborative efforts.

Overall, I learned a lot about teamwork, leadership, and problem solving through the Grand Challenges Living Learning Community. One of the greatest challenges I had to overcome was learning that there was not always a right answer to every problem. While there may not be a single correct answer, my job as a student and engineer will be to find the best one.

This article first appeared in the Fall 2013 ISyE Alumni Magazine.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Lizzie Millman
  • Created:12/16/2013
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016