Past Winners

  • Engineers are essential to the way we live. They help to keep us safe and healthy, make sure we have enough to eat, get us from one place to another, and they even shape the way we play. Consider your favorite sport, and then think about all the different kinds of technologies that are used in playing, scoring, or training for that sport. From something as seemingly-simple as the fabric for a uniform to high-speed cameras and biosensors, technology is essential to the way we experience sports, and engineers make all those technologies possible!
  • The year 2014 marks 50 years since the creation of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). Much has changed in that half century! At the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, visitors were amazed by color televisions, a prototype of a picture phone, new materials like Mylar®, displays of a space program that promised to put an astronaut on the moon, and demonstrations of huge computers that could draw up a list of events that happened on a given date in history. We now have computers on every desk and some that can fit in our pockets. We have explored the moon and Mars and launched the Hubble space telescope. Our phones can take pictures, connect to the internet, and play music and movies.
  • It is hard to imagine what the world would be like without modern medicine. Doctors today have a wealth of tools at their disposal to combat human suffering. From complex robotic surgical suites that enable surgeons to operate on patients thousands of miles away to simple storage mechanisms for vaccines in the developing world, engineering and technology are central to the way we fight disease. There have been many successes on the road to a healthier planet, but many battles are still left to fight.
  • Shopping at your local supermarket is a different experience today than it was even 50 years ago. Today the food we eat comes from around the world and is often already prepared in a wonderful variety of ways. Engineers are actively involved in every step of the process—they design the specialized machines used to plant and harvest crops and develop unique manufacturing processes to prepare, package, and transport foods in safe and secure ways.
  • Flood, famine, earthquake, tsunami, oil spill, blackout, building collapse, mining accident, wildfire, hurricane, tornado, terrorist attack—all have been headline news in recent years. Disasters, both natural and man-made, can take many forms. Every disaster presents unique challenges and requires fast and decisive action to save lives and limit damages. Engineers are involved in designing many products specifically for use in disaster zones such as portable medical equipment, oil skimmers, or basic shelters. Identify an item designed specifically for use in disaster relief, and then do some research on it to write your essay.
  • If you have to be stranded somewhere with someone, you might want to hope you are stranded with an engineer. Engineers think big and solve problems with whatever resources they have available so they would be great companions on a deserted island. Try this exercise to see if you can think like an engineer:
    During a field trip to a national wildlife refuge (or national forest), you and a friend get separated from the rest of the group and realize that you are totally lost.
    Your guide told you earlier that if you get lost: stay where you are, stay safe, and wait for someone to find you. It's getting late, and the temperature is dropping. When you dump out the contents of your backpack you see the following:
  • Have you ever wondered what goes through an engineer’s mind when she is designing a new product? It takes creativity as well as attention to details and design requirements. Often engineers will use an object as an example and then make improvements for safety, function, or attractiveness. Sometimes a design works best when it is simple, and other times it requires complicated calculations.
    Try your hand at evaluating your own engineering product. Start by choosing one of the three images below. Then think about the object in the picture
    What is it? What do you think it might be used for?
    What are the most important features of the design?
    What was the engineer’s role in making this product and what engineering principles were used?
  • Energy!  It fuels our cars, heats our homes, runs our computers and keeps the lights on.  We use energy in almost everything we do, but if we aren’t careful there won’t be enough.  Engineers have their work cut out for them.  The world is counting on them to chart a ...
  • Often the work of engineers can make a big difference in society, and sometimes their work can affect millions or even billions of people. In the last 100 years engineers have changed the world with advances our great grandparents could only have imagined. Technology has allowed us to explore the galaxy, provide safe drinking water and food to millions of people, and communicate across the globe. But the work is not yet finished. The most pressing world needs demand engineers who are creative and persistent. Think about what life will be like on earth in the next 100 years. What do you believe are the most critical human needs? How might engineers contribute to meeting these needs? These are Engineering’s Grand Challenges. In 500 to 750 words write about the Grand Challenge that you believe will lead to the most important breakthrough of the 21st century and describe the role that engineers will play in meeting that challenge and building our future.
  • In 500-1000 words tell us how you think engineers have and continue to improve the world. Focus your essay on one of the following topics:

    Engineering For Today
    What have engineers done to improve the quality of your life today? What in your world have engineers made possible?

    Engineering For Tomorrow
    What significant technologies will engineers develop by the year 2020? What problems will they solve?
  • Each year, thousands of dolphins die after beaching themselves, often in spite of efforts of volunteers working furiously to move them back out to sea. Imagine that a pod of dolphins has mysteriously come ashore and you are asked to help. Contestants were asked to devise a solution to this problem using design principles and processes from one or more fields of engineering, removing the dolphins from the beach and safely back into their home in the water.
  • The National Academy of Engineering and the EngineerGirl! website, in conjunction with the Invention Assembly (, are pleased to announce the winners of the Engineering is a Dream Career Essay Contest. (Read the contest details) Many bright students submitted essays to the contest and judges had a wonderful time reading them.
  • Students were asked to comment on one of the following: engineering’s greatest achievement, a great engineer from history, or the future of engineering.