Midwest engineering leaders converge at Illinois-sponsored NEF regional event


Mike Koon, Engineering Communications Office

The University of Illinois partnered with the National Engineering Forum (NEF) to host the Chicago regional dialogue at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on Oct. 30. The National Engineering Forum, launched by Lockheed Martin and the Council on Competitiveness, is hosting regional dialogues throughout the country with the goal of bringing together leaders in industry, academia, and government to discuss three challenges facing engineering in the United States – capacity, capability and competitiveness.

University of Illinois President Robert Easter convened a host committee representing the region’s top engineering and business colleges. Representing the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Engineering in the intimate group of distinguished collaborators were Andreas Cangellaris, dean; Bill King, Bliss Professor in Mechanical Science and Engineering and Chief Technology Office at the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII); Amy Fruehling, the director of Engineering Career Services; Kevin Pitts, associate dean for undergraduate programs; and Dave Lapari, director of corporate relations; Rakesh Nagi, Donald Biggar Willett Professor and Department Head of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering; Andrew Singer, Fox Family Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering; and Jed Taylor, director of operations at the Technology Entrepreneur Center..

“Engineering at Illinois students, faculty and alumni take great pride in our tradition of changing the world by doing the impossible,” Cangellaris said. “As an anchor of technology and engineering innovation in the Midwest, we strive to find new ways to partner with industry and starts-ups to help us make a global impact. The National Engineering Forum regional dialogue was a great way to bring those key players to the table to discuss the future in this realm.”

The dialogue exemplified the multilateral approach needed to ensure the health and sustainability of the U.S. engineering enterprise. Steve Koch, the deputy mayor of the City of Chicago, provided the keynote address. Themes of the event included the important contributions that immigrants have made to Chicago’s economy, the emerging start-up and entrepreneurship community, challenges in Chicago’s K-12 system, and the importance of industry-university-government partnerships – such as the newly launched Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute – to knitting together the region’s resources for shared prosperity.

“The event focused on how academia, industry, and government can work together to make our region more competitive when it comes to engineering and technology,” said U of I President Robert Easter. “We have talented engineering students and faculty at our Urbana and Chicago campuses who are changing the world through research and discovery. The NEF dialogue was a great opportunity to bring key stakeholders together to identify challenges and determine how we can leverage our strengths for future initiatives.”

Earlier in the day, the University of Illinois also partnered with ThinkChicago and NEF to host a NEF Generation (NEF Gen) event, to engage the next generation of engineers in the important conversation about the future of engineering in the United States and what it means for students and young professionals.

Held at 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurial hub for digital startups, the event brought students and young professionals from various disciplines and industries together to discuss the engineering industry, specifically what great engineering feats have happened in Chicago and at the students’ institutions; engineers’ roles in achieving social, environmental, and economic sustainability; and the contributions and skills of their generation of engineers.

For more outcomes from the dialogue, visit http://nationalengineeringforum.com/regional-dialogues/#.VI9SOWQvBVs.