Students at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University are taking part in Global Challenges, a worldwide competition to devise innovative solutions to some of the biggest problems faced by humanity today and a chance to win five million US dollars’ worth of prizes.
During the summer holiday, 40 XJTLU students from various departments and at various levels of study formed 5 small groups and worked intensively from 9 am to 5 pm on group discussions, presentations, literature reviews, data collection and processing, simulations, and academic report writing.
“The competition is a quest to find new models of global cooperation capable of handling global risks,” said Chairman of the Global Challenges Foundation Laszlo Szombatfalvy in a statement on the Foundation’s official website.
“The greatest threats we face today transcend national boundaries,” he continued. “They therefore need to be addressed jointly by all countries based on an increased realisation of our mutual dependence. That is why I believe a new global framework for managing them must be found.”
The challenges investigated by the XJTLU students include: global warming; large-scale environmental damage (including water and air pollution); violent conflict (including nuclear weapons and terrorism); extreme poverty, and overpopulation.
By focussing on particular problems, the groups sought commonalities that would help inform the creation of a new model of global governance to address all the challenges. The project is the first of its kind at XJTLU, creating new opportunities for students to conduct interdisciplinary research with possible global impacts.
Yalan Zhao, Meng Wei, Yimin Zhou, and Kaitlin Wu (pictured above, left to right) are four members of the team investigating solutions to global warming.
“The goal of our group is a carbon-neutral world,” said Yimin Zhou. “We focused on finding a governance model for global cooperation to motivate individuals worldwide to have preferences for low-carbon products.”
“By adopting a special carbon-pricing mechanism, a change in consumer behaviour will accelerate the transition of all industries and finally change whole societies,” she said.
Chang Feng and Zinan Liao (pictured above, left and right) are members of the team investigating extreme poverty and possible solutions to it. They pointed out how the problems of poverty and global warming are interrelated as climate change causes disasters such as flooding that affect the economies of countries.
“A great deal of government models have been created to solve problems of poverty,” said Chang, “Such as charitable credit rating systems and food banks. We hope that our solutions will be flexible and suitable for local conditions wherever they are.”
The Global Challenges competition entry by XJTLU students has been led by Dr Siyi Wang (pictured below), a lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Dr Wang has organised, trained, and supported the XJTLU entries, interviewing over 100 students to select the 40 who formed the five groups. He has also hosted training sessions covering topics such as team collaboration skills, MATLAB, LaTeX, academic research skills, visualisation skills (Gephi and Tableau) and English learning skills.
“I am also designing a survey for the students to fill in regarding their feelings, comments, and suggestions for how to improve this project for subsequent entries by XJTLU students,” said Siyi.
Student Yimin Zhou expressed her appreciation on behalf of the other students for Siyi’s hard work, saying that they “all really appreciated the opportunity to access and develop the skills he introduced to them.”
Dr Wang Siyi previously led a student team to win the second prize in the IEEE Communications Society student competition Communications Technology Changing the World.
He is also a prolific researcher, having published over 45 IEEE/IET papers in the past five years with research interests spanning molecular communications, indoor-outdoor network interaction, device-to-device (D2D) communications, stochastic geometry, theoretical frameworks for complex networks, and urban informatics with blockchain technologies.
The students are currently preparing their final reports of 9,250 words with supporting materials to submit to the Global Challenges organisation. They will include an animated video that illustrates their proposed global governance model.
Following a semi-final jury meeting in late February - early March 2018 participants will be notified whether or not their entries have been selected. Finalists will join the New Shape Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2018 to present their ideas to the Final Jury who will review the entries and select the winners.
reporter: Danny Abbasi