Grand Challenge Selection

GCSP students will identify one of the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering around which to focus their learning and experience at Dartmouth:

Make solar energy affordable

Provide energy from fusion

Develop carbon sequestration method

Manage the nitrogen cycle

Provide access to clean water

Restore and improve urban infrastructure

Advance health informatics

Engineer better medicines

Reverse-engineer the brain

Prevent nuclear terror

Secure cyberspace

Enhance virtual reality

Advance personalized learning

Engineer the tools for scientific discovery

Dan Propp Ghana

Locally-run Renewable Energy

Dan Propp '18, a Center for Social Impact Lewin Fellow, is working to provide financing and technical assistance to locally-run renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo courtesy of @dartmouthsocialimpact)

Program Requirements

Having selected a Grand Challenge, students will plan, propose, and complete the core components of Dartmouth's GCSP:

  1. a mentored research experience or independent project (for Dartmouth credit); and
  2. a related off-term experience.

Students must achieve five competencies (see below) that prepare them to address the Grand Challenges for Engineering around the world. Between the two core components and Dartmouth’s AB degree requirements, it is expected that, with careful planning, each of the five competency requirements can be met.

Each student will develop their own GCSP with guidance from their GCSP advisor and the GCSP Committee.

Five Competencies

As stated above, there are five competencies that a student must achieve to prepare them to address the Grand Challenges for Engineering around the world. GCSP activities within the five competency areas, as outlined below, must relate to the student's selected Grand Challenge. All program-related activities, excluding regular degree requirements, must be approved in advance by the GCSP Committee to ensure adherence to program standards.

1. Talent Competency

GCSP students will be required to complete one of the following three courses with the project or research area being relevant to their chosen Grand Challenge:

  • ENGS 86: Independent Project—An individual research or design project carried out under faculty supervision.
  • ENGS 87: Undergraduate Investigations—An original investigation in a phase of science or engineering under faculty supervision.
  • ENGS 88: Honors Thesis (Honors version of ENGS 86)—A course normally elected by honors students in one term of the senior year. The student will conduct a creative investigation suitable to the major subject under faculty supervision.

2. Multidisciplinary Competency

Having a single integrated department of engineering, Dartmouth offers many courses that are multidisciplinary by design. Examples include required undergraduate core courses in lumped and distributed systems that encompass fields normally not addressed in a single course.

Because Dartmouth's undergraduate engineering curriculum provides such a strong multidisciplinary education, students in the GCSP will be deemed to have achieved multidisciplinary competency upon completion of the AB degree in engineering sciences.

As part of the application process, students will document a minimum of 3 courses that they plan to take/have taken that are related to their selected Grand Challenge.

3. Viable Business/Entrepreneurship Competency

All GCSP students will be required to complete a project or internship during a Dartmouth off-term that relates to their Grand Challenge. If this off-term experience includes an entrepreneurial component or sufficient business analysis, as approved by the GCSP Committee, the project will satisfy this requirement.

Students may also achieve the viable business/entrepreneurship competency by filing a patent application, participating in a pitch competition, or by participating in another significant entrepreneurial activity during their undergraduate education. GCSP students will be required to seek input from their faculty advisors and/or the program director on whether their proposed entrepreneurial activity is sufficient to fulfill this component of the program.

4. Multicultural Competency

The multicultural competency requirement will be met in the course of satisfying existing degree requirements for Dartmouth students. Atypical of undergraduate engineering programs, our students are required to take three language courses and three additional courses in world cultures. Dual Degree Program students from partner liberal arts institutions will need to show documentation on how they have satisfied the global component through course work or other curricular or co-curricular activities.

In addition, all GCSP students will be highly encouraged to participate in one or more of Dartmouth's Foreign Study, Language Study Abroad, or Engineering Exchange Programs. Other international opportunities, such as the student-run Dartmouth Humanitarian Engineering or those offered through the Dartmouth Center for Social Impact, may be used to achieve multicultural competency.

5. Social Consciousness Competency

The social consciousness competency will be a key basis for approving student GCSP Off-Term Experience Proposals. This compentency may be fulfilled during the student's off-term experience, in combination with the multicultural competency, or through another experience at or outside of Dartmouth.

Service opportunities offered through Dartmouth include:

Program Completion

At the culmination of the program, students will compile a Completion Report that includes the following documentation:

  • A brief summary of the two core components of their GCSP (for-credit research or independent project and off-term experience);
  • A 1–2 page reflection about what the student learned over the course of the program and how it relates specifically to their Grand Challenge and how each of the five program competencies was achieved;
  • A copy of the written reports produced as part of the for-credit research or independent project, and off-term experience;
  • Other relevant supporting documents (optional).

The GCSP Committee will review students' completion reports, request additional detail or work if necessary, and determine satisfactory completion of the program requirements.


Components completed prior to the student's admission to the GCSP can be used to satisfy the requirements. Students must meet termly deadlines (third Friday of each term) for the submission of the completion report in order to receive a certificate of completion for that term.