National Academy of Engineering Announces Engineering Call to Action on COVID-19


Tue, April 07, 2020

Washington DC, April 07, 2020 —

The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) has announced a Call to Action for engineers to crowdsource and collectively brainstorm engineering solutions for coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19). The COVID-19 crisis has placed the world in extraordinary circumstances. In addition to the medical and scientific expertise that is being brought to bear on this challenge, engineers too can bring their knowledge and skills as well as systems approaches and an innovative mindset to combat the contagion and its impact.

The Call to Action was proposed and is being largely driven by a grassroots movement of NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program (GCSP) students and alumni. The NAE’s Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) alumni and NAE members are participating as both contributors and mentors to GCSP students or other engineers as ideas develop. Technical specialists and social entrepreneurs will also take part in proposal development.

“This cross-generational engineering Call to Action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is powerful,” said NAE President John L. Anderson. “We hope the wide-ranging interdisciplinary engineering viewpoints the initiative brings to this crisis will have tangible impacts both for the near-term emergency and as we turn to recovery and begin planning for similar situations in the future.”

[Quotes from others involved in leading this effort are below.]

While the current COVID-19 pandemic is separating people physically, it also compels us to work together to address its accompanying societal and economic challenges. These challenges are ideally suited for engineers, and this project provides a mechanism for that to happen.

The NAE effort will be a virtual incubator of ideas that could help address the contagion and its collateral impacts, from supply chains to the disruption of life and work. Individuals or teams will enter the workspace and propose ideas for discussion and development. Teams will form around these ideas and teams with deep technology will be trained at an expedited pace with the support of the NSF sponsored I-Corps Innovation Node Los Angeles ( Entries are likely to address the general themes of the NAE Grand Challenges, for example:

  • Health and Medicine: medical technologies, medical supply production, physical and mental health, tools for the elderly, reusable medical materials
  • Sustainability and Recovery: economic recovery, social and political recovery
  • Security: resource allocation, dissemination of accurate information, AI, health care worker protection
  • Quality of Life: work under self-isolation, new means of collaboration

To learn in detail how this initiative will work visit:

This initiative would not be possible without the help of I-Corps Innovation Node Los Angeles and the University of Southern California (USC). Funding is provided by the NAE’s Charles M. Vest President’s Opportunity Fund.

Additional quotes from COVID-19 Call to Action team:

Andrew Mang, a GCSP graduate who founded an engineering company in Africa, said: “COVID-19 is an urgent threat that impacts every aspect of society, and beating it requires an integrated approach incorporating various stakeholders. As engineers and global citizens, we must put our training and experience to use for the greater good of humanity - both in the immediate emergency response to this crisis and in the longer-term recovery efforts that will follow. The GCSP community is uniquely positioned to coordinate a technical response to this threat because of our interdisciplinary education and mindset, and we call on our fellow engineers in the private sector, the government, and academia to join us.” 

Rachael Lau, a Duke University GCSP student with interest and research exposure in disaster response, is spearheading the internal development of the initiative and student mobilization effort. She said: “As a young engineer, it’s remarkable to see how incredibly interconnected our global community is and how we can mobilize to affect changes in our local communities for global impact. When we take ourselves out of our own realities to consider situations like the COVID-19 pandemic on a global scale, creative thinking and our engineering education take on a new meaning. This kind of global agency reminds us that, as engineers, we have a responsibility to think critically about how we can engineer for humanity – mobilizing a force of engineers who think like this is incredibly powerful.”

“Engineers play the key role in shaping the world on a mega scale through the unmatched forces of technology and science,” said Olin College President Richard Miller, a co-founder of the GCSP and member of the NAE COVID-19 Call to Action board.  “We have the moral responsibility to take the lead and quickly focus our community on the terror of the pandemic while there is still time. The cost of NOT taking this initiative is absolutely incalculable.”

Yannis Yortsos, dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, a co-founder of the GCSP, and member of the NAE COVID-19 Call to Action board, said: “How we react in today’s times of uncertainty and disruptive, exponential change will test our values, our commitment, and our resolve. The extraordinary group of students, alumni, and other constituencies of the GCSP and FOE, is ideally suited to respond to this extraordinary crisis. Their attributes and mindsets, competence, and character will help engineer a better world for all humanity, a goal more urgent than ever before.”  


Founded in 1964, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.

Brandon  Green
Contact Brandon Green
Communications/Media Specialist
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