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Reports From the Future: Georgia Tech T&M Students and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Three Scheller T&M teams competed in Professor Eric Overby’s “Reports of the Future Symposium” competition by presenting how they would achieve three of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Israel, Nigeria, and Turkey. The winning team reported on desalination in Israel.
Grace Moussouri, Amelia Wetherington, Matthew Walter, John Rezabek

Left-right: Grace Moussouri, Amelia Wetherington, Matthew Walter, John Rezabek

In 2015, the United Nations Member States adopted a policy to bring peace and prosperity worldwide by establishing the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Some of these goals to improve the human condition include no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, and climate action.

These are broad and all-encompassing goals, so how can individuals, groups, and institutions like Georgia Tech take ownership and action? The Institute is already supporting the SDGs by participating in meetings with other educational organizations in the U.S. and abroad, implementing programs to expand awareness, and helping achieve these goals across departments, including the Office of the President.

At the Scheller College of Business, our faculty and students are also involved in important work to achieve some SDGs.

Dr. Eric Overby, Catherine & Edwin Wahlen Professor of Information Technology at Scheller, created a hands-on approach to introducing SDGs to first-year Denning Scholars in the spring semester by challenging them to think about how they would approach fulfilling one of the SDGs in his “Analysis of Emerging Technologies” course.

He asked student teams to choose an SDG that pertains to a specific country, and once the students had selected one of the 17 goals, they conducted an analysis and recorded a podcast of their findings. From there, Dr. Overby chose three teams to present their projects to a panel of judges.

John Stanford, Senior Manager of Corporate Relations and Student Counseling, solicited judges from the Denning Technology & Management (T&M) Program’s corporate partners, including risk3sixty (Jessica Lucas, Zach Fey, Wright Malone, Phillip Lee, and Mary Kathryn Elliott), MarkeTeam (Sorian Enriquez), Siemens (Enrico Cimador), and Novelis (Zaffer Sange). In addition, Dr. Karthik Ramachandran, Dunn Family Professor of Operations Management, brought his “Managing Product, Service, and Technology Development” class to watch their peers present.

At the “Reports from the Future” Symposium, the finalists pretended it was the year 2032. They took the audience on a journey that traveled back in time and detailed society’s progress in achieving aspects of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The three teams looked at providing internet access in Nigeria, educating refugees in Turkey, and desalinating water in Israel.

John Rezabek elaborated: “It was a great experience to work with other T&M students from different backgrounds in reference to the UN’s 6th Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Clean Water and Sanitation.’ To make our reports from a future perspective, we researched existing developments, current plans to move forward with desalination in Israel, and technological developments in the water purification process. From there, we forecasted potential developments that would create a view of what 2032 could look like and how to strategically move forward to sustainably maintain and grow the freshwater supply not only in Israel but how it could be applied to similar countries to ensure an ample water supply.”

Rezabek’s teammate Amelia Wetherington added, “Working on our presentation for the symposium allowed all of us to dive deep into a topic we wouldn't normally be able to. We were able to use our imagination and make predictive judgments while also combining that with real research and analyses, which was a great learning experience that will come in handy in the future! It was a very cool opportunity to get to present to corporate affiliates on something that could actually make an impact on the world.”

The “Best Presentation” award was given to Grace Moussouri (Computational Media), John Rezabek (Industrial and Systems Engineering), Matthew Walter (Mechanical Engineering), and Amelia Wetherington (IT Management) for their “Desalinating Water in Israel” project. Student peers also voted on the presentations and conferred the “People’s Choice” award to interdisciplinary team members Matthew Geuss (Industrial Engineering), Trey Tiffin (Strategy and Innovation), William Wood (Computer Science), and Zhiyang Xu (Industrial Design) on their project, “Educating Refugees in Turkey.”

“I felt honored to be chosen for the People's Choice award by my peers because of the support they've shown me. This presentation took a lot of effort to pull off, and doing it in front of my fellow T&Mers made the whole process go so smoothly,” Tiffin explained.

Rett Moore (Industrial and Systems Engineering), Katie Krupczak (Computer Science), Jose Santiago-Rios (Mechanical Engineering), and Katie-Rose Slade (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) rounded out the evening with their presentation on “Providing Internet Access in Nigeria.”

Which SDG goal will you choose to focus on in your own spheres of influence? It’s never too late to take action. 

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation, and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice, and strong institutions
  • Partnerships for the goals

Here are some first steps:

Written by Anne Lynch

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