Sophomore NAE Challenge 2021

Register for the Challenge

VCU Engineering hosts its second annual Sophomore National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Challenge Aug. 16-20. This event challenges rising sophomores to tackle some of NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering in the 21st century. It’s also a great chance to network with professors, industry leaders and other students. 

“From competing to winning, the NAE Challenge gave me confidence to excel as a student. Participating in this event opened doors and gave me opportunities I never would have dreamed of,” said Sekai Clayton, a 2020 Sophomore NAE Challenge participant. Clayton, a junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering, went on to receive a prestigious U.S. Department of Defense SMART Scholarship that funds a student’s full tuition, books and a stipend for living expenses.

Keynote Address

Ayanna Howard

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D.
Dean, College of Engineering
The Ohio State University 
One of America’s Top 50 Women in Tech - Forbes

Please join us at 10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 16, for a virtual keynote address by Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering at the Ohio State University. This address is open to the public, but registration is required.

Register for the keynote

Ayanna Howard, Ph.D., is an accomplished roboticist, entrepreneur and educator. Forbes magazine named her one of America’s Top 50 Women In Tech. The Association for Computing Machinery recently appointed her as its ACM Athena Lecturer. Learn more about Dean Howard.


All rising engineering sophomores are urged to participate. Your total time commitment will be roughly 10 hours over the course of the week. Students will form teams and work alongside engineering faculty and industry pros to propose ways to overcome some of the biggest challenges facing planet Earth and humankind today. The week will also feature speakers, discussion of the Grand Challenges and a final showcase and awards. 

Register by July 30 and receive VCU Engineering swag. 

All students who complete the challenge will:

  • Earn a digital badge of completion for use on LinkedIn or other platforms 
  • Have a certificate mailed to their residences
  • Be eligible for a cash prize to continue their project

Challenge Prizes:

Each of the top three projects will receive a $3,000 grant for further development.

Schedule of Events

Monday, Aug. 16

10 a.m. |  Keynote Address 

11 a.m- 2 p.m. | Informational sessions, team formation, seminar activities 

Tuesday, Aug. 17 

9 a.m.-2 p.m. | Informational sessions and group work

Wednesday, Aug. 18 

9 a.m.-2 p.m. | Informational sessions and group work

5 p.m. | Project submissions due

Thursday, Aug. 19 

9 a.m.-Noon | Project judging

Friday, Aug. 20 

1 p.m. | Seminar conclusion and awards