Current Grand Challenge Scholars

Youssef Agiez, Computer Engineering

Grand Challenge: Reverse-engineering the Brain

Hometown: Cairo, Egypt

Statement: The rise of artificial intelligence around the world is taking over; computers now are so much “smarter” than they were just five years ago. Scientists have been designing software and hardware to function like a brain. Yet, these devices and applications cannot be compared to the human brain and what it holds. The human brain is one of the biggest mysteries of the 21st century. Learning about the reverse engineering of the brain can help us beyond words can describe. It can help us to innovate and move forward in our lives after knowing how we function, for example helping paralyzed people regain control of their bodies. Understanding our brain through reverse engineering will help us expand in our technologies and give us more space in innovating and widening our horizons.

Nicolas Cardenas Portaccio, Electrical Engineering

Grand Challenge: Make Solar Energy Economical

Hometown: Bogotá, Colombia

Statement: Since I was a kid pollution has always disgusted me – its damage to our health and the environment. I have given thought and researched ways to control pollution especially investigating ways to naturally convert Carbon Dioxide (CO2). I have considered capturing this gas and using it somewhere else, as the Grand Challenge plan incites to do. If we manage to trap enough amount of pollutant CO2 we could treat it to form O2 molecules and carbon, and finish the cycle. The problem now comes to create a reaction to separate the carbon from the oxygen, an extremely difficult process, but not impossible. I’m interested in making a contribution in this area.

Subash Gautam, Computer Engineering

Grand Challenge: Reverse-engineering the Brain

Hometown: Kathmandu, Nepal

Statement: I always prefer to see how technologies are built up. Reverse engineering is one of the ongoing hot topics in the world. Reverse engineering helps to explore my major as well as it helps me in initiating ideas so we can build the advanced technologies that are user friendly. Millions of dollars are spent on scientific research. In order to advance research and advance more easy modern scientific tools, reverse engineering the brain plays a vital role. Reverse engineering is the ground study to build strong scientific tools.

Tarunjit Kumar, Computer Science

Grand Challenge: Enhance Virtual Reality

Hometown: Vicenza, Italy

Statement: The purpose of Virtual Reality (VR) is to give to its users an interactive virtual environment. VR is strongly used for the purpose of gaming, allowing the player a fully immersive experience of the game. Despite the trend, VR could have many other applications other than gaming. An example, could be teaching through interactive environments supplied by VR, allowing the students to learn complicated subjects such as physics and chemistry through visual experience, another is the possibility to run a simulator for flight training or driving. VR is just at its starting phase, many optimizations and enhancements are still possible.

Wayne Teto, Electrical Engineering

Grand Challenge: Reverse-engineer the Brain

Hometown: Bridgeport, CT

Statement: Ever since childhood, I have been constructing and creating things. After looking at the Engineering Grand Challenge web page, I found all of the topics interesting. I have been working with different types of drones lately – building and programming them from scratch. I feel some of the most serious issues this world has could be resolved by engineers. The most difficult challenges being energy, nature, medical, and 21st century technology for the war on terrorism. These challenges need to be taken face on, and I always like a challenge.

Dat Tran, Computer Science

Hometown: Da Nang, Vietnam

Grand Challenge: Advance Personalized Learning

Statement: Personalized learning, in my personal opinion, is a promising field that should be applied around the world. One of my dreams is to build and maintain technology infrastructure around the world to accommodate technical development and communication in developing countries. This will bring technology to a wider global reach, and popularize online learning as a substitute for traditional classroom for the next upcoming learner’s generation.

More information on the 14 National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges can be found at the Academy’s website:

For more information about the program, contact:

Dr. Jani Pallis, Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering
University of Bridgeport School of Engineering

Engineering Technology Building, Office 156
126 Park Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604