10 Engineering Schools Changing the World

College is more than just what goes on in the classroom.

It also provides a powerful, unrivaled laboratory fostering groundbreaking developments in research, technology, and new ideas.

In fact, a number of schools have produced innovations that have tremendously impacted every area of technology in the world as we know it today – automobiles, energy, data science, engineering, and more.

Without the power of higher education’s minds and resources, many of today’s greatest innovations would not exist.

How is higher education so good at changing the world every single year?

It is through student-faculty collaborations as well as financial resources totaling, at some schools, hundreds of millions in research expenditure.

When powerful brains have the essential capital required to develop new ideas, amazing developments changing the world naturally take place.

So how does a school make this particular list?

Each school on this list – their faculty, resources, students, and/or extension programs –  showcase significant innovation positively changing their own communities as well as those throughout the world.

For this particular list, we are focusing on STEM-prominent schools and programs.

Also, in a commitment to showcase a diverse set of institutions, all listed schools here are outside the US News Top 100 national university ranking.

Here are 10 amazing schools changing the world.

Wentworth Institute of Technology (Boston, MA)

Wentworth Institute of Technology
Martina10, Wentworth Institute’s Quad, CC BY-SA 4.0

When it comes to civic engagement and innovation for their community, few schools demonstrate the same excellence as Wentworth. 

In 2007-2008, 1,800+ students provided an amazing 116,000 hours of service to local communities through their Center for Community and Learning Partnerships. Wentworth’s contribution to the Greater Boston community earned them a prestigious Carnegie Classification in 2008.

Wentworth has impacted the world through their Social Innovation Lab, a 12-week program addressing issues that matter outside of academia in the real world. Some recent projects include the designing of a vest helping patients undergoing transfusions, creating a product assisting visually impaired people, and increasing engagement at a local zoo. 

Incorporated in May 2012, Wentworth launched Accelerate, a center designed to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship for their students. Since launching just seven years ago, an impressive 5,500 students have participated in this special initiative

Kettering University (Flint, MI)

Kettering University
Bryan Duggan, Kettering CSMott, CC BY-SA 3.0

Kettering has had an unusually large influence in the world of engineering and business.

The university is named after Charles Kettering, former head of research at General Motors. As an inventor himself, Charles Kettering created the modern-day cash register as well as the automobile self-starter. 

The school has since produced alumni who have further changed the automobile industry. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Company, is a 1985 graduate of Kettering who played a significant role in shaping the trajectory of today’s most popular cars.

Additionally, the school has four SAE (Society for Automotive Engineering) teams who compete internationally for awards in most innovative vehicle designs.

Experiential education is central to the STEM mission at Kettering. To this end, Kettering is home to the Innovation Center, a 9,000 square foot facility opened in 2010 designed to aid entrepreneurs in growing their businesses. This entrepreneurship incubation center has provided a significant upward trend for the economy of Flint, Michigan.

Kettering is the #1 school in all of Michigan for “return-on-investment” by a significant margin when considering average 20-year net ROI.

Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MO)

Nebraska Puffer Fish, Mst leach theatre, CC BY-SA 4.0

Missouri S&T is one of the most amazing engineering institutions worldwide directly impacting the technology we use everyday.

One of Missouri S&T’s most impressive research facilities is their nuclear reactor, an operational plant that, in 2017, produced almost 9,000 kilowatt hours of energy with a half-gram of uranium. This unique, one-of-a-kind facility is used for research as well as teaching classes of college and high-school aged students.

Another facility on campus is the Electromagnetic Compatibility Laboratory. This space produces significant innovations for a number of companies through the school’s Electromagnetic Compatibility Consortium, including IBM, Huawei, Sony, Apple, Sony, and Intel.

Other innovative projects students are involved in include research in aero-vehicles, solar cars, robotics, and even Mars rover engineering; for this final category, Missouri S&T won 1st place in a 2017 national competition for their take on a functional Mars rover. 

New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, NM)

New Mexico Institute of Technology
Atomic Energy505, New Mexico Tech, CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the most selective schools on this list, New Mexico Tech has an acceptance rate of less than 25%, making it among the most exclusive engineering programs in the country.

In 2003, with blessing from the US Government, New Mexico Tech purchased Playas, New Mexico, an unincorporated community now used as a “field site” where significant student and faculty research takes place. This town now acts as a large laboratory for scientific experiments, domestic protection programs, and more.

Throughout their local town, New Mexico Tech has established a number of facilities designed for research that has helped change the world. One such facility, the Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, studies clouds and their precipitation patterns. This center is responsible for groundbreaking research on lightning storms and weather systems.

Although New Mexico Tech may be predominantly about science, they also host several concerts a year through a Performing Arts Series benefitting the residents of local New Mexico communities.

Oregon Institute of Technology (Klamath Falls, OR & Wilsonville, OR)

Oregon Institute of Technology
OregonTech, Oregon Institute of Technology, CC BY-SA 4.0

According to a study produced by Georgetown University, Oregon Tech is the #1 school in all of Oregon for 40-year return on investment.

How does it win out against so many other excellent institutions – both public and private – in the state of Oregon? We think it’s because of their supreme focus on experiential, real-world education.

The Portland Metro campus, located in Wilsonville, is in the heart of what is known as Silicon Forest, a cluster of tech companies based in Portland, Oregon. Many students who graduate from Oregon Tech frequently find themselves employed in these major companies, including Microsoft, Xerox, and Mentor Graphics.

One major facility operated in part by Oregon Tech is the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center, a center that has produced innovations for major companies, including Boeing and Mitsubishi.

Student chapters of numerous professional societies focused on innovation are constituents of the Oregon Tech experience, including Engineers Without Borders as well as American Society of Civil Engineers.

North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro, NC)

The largest HBCU in the country, North Carolina A&T has over 12,000 students. It’s College of Engineering is widely considered one of the top engineering programs in the country, with the US Department of Education calling it America’s top producer of African-American graduates in Engineering and Agriculture.

N.C. A&T is no stranger to scientific advancement; In the 2018 fiscal year, the school’s total research expenditure was an impressive $64 million. 

Because of the school’s significant research activity, the Carnegie Classification has designated the school as an R2 university with high research activity. Less than 7% of all schools nationwide are given this designation from the Carnegie Classification.

N.C. A&T works closely with government-funded agencies to promote significant scientific advances. Collaborations – with funding – include NASA, NIH, and the National Science Foundation.

One unique offering of N.C. A&T is their Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering; in 2010, when this institution opened, fewer than 10 schools offered programs in nanotechnology, putting N.C. A&T in rare company for a cutting-edge – and highly needed – program.

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (Rapid City, SD)

photo provided by South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

SD Mines has been an important epicenter for significant research both historically as well as in the modern day.

One early advancement of the school was made through a series of events known as the Stratobowl flights; these flights gave the world the first images of Earth showcasing its curvature. SD Mines was involved with this historic event in the early 20th century.

SD Mines’ Museum of Geology is an important paleontological center, housing a number of dinosaur skeletons as well as geologically significant minerals. This important facility has been a center for archaeological research conducted by students and faculty at the school.

Discoveries in STEM are central to the SD Mines mission. Besides geology, the school has made significant research breakthroughs on prosthetics and wearable instrumentation.

An article in Forbes magazine showed that the net ROI for graduates of this school was better than the ROI of students from MIT.

Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, IL)

Illinois Institute of Technology
Joe Ravi, Crown Hall 1, CC BY-SA 3.0

Historically, the Illinois Institute of Technology has created significant innovations that have had a significant impact on technology we all use. From 1952 to 1973, IIT experienced tremendous growth under president and fluid dynamicist John T. Rettaliata, a scientist who contributed significant research evolving modern-day jet engines.

One groundbreaking facility on campus is the IIT Research Institute, which several decades ago was responsible for the creation of magnetic recording, i.e. tapes and cassettes. In today’s world, this high-technology, cutting-edge facility spends millions on new technologies changing medicine and biology.

Innovation extends not just through the faculty, but also to the students. One IIT program, known as The Idea Shop, provides a one-of-a-kind 13,000 square foot facility encouraging collaboration in engineering and related disciplines.

Today, IIT is not just an engineering school, but also a public university with a College of Architecture, College of Law, and even an Institute of Design among other programs.

Michigan Technological University (Houghton, MI)

Michigan Tech
Jcvertin, Michigan Tech campus, CC BY-SA 4.0

Every year, Michigan Tech presents a Research Award to a member of their faculty who has made significant contributions to the world of technology and engineering. 

Recent recipients include Zhanping You, whose unique work on pavement and asphalt have been featured in over 300 scientific journals and conferences worldwide, and Raymond Shaw, a researcher whose work on clouds has made significant advancements in understanding their formation and behavior.

Many schools have made significant strides in innovation and research; Michigan Tech has not only done this, they also have been successful in the commercialization of their research.

To this end, Michigan Tech has an entire Office of Innovation and Commercialization available for faculty and students alike; this department makes scientific advancements at Michigan Tech become successfully sold and utilized outside of academia.

Through this department, students and faculty work on projects sponsored by 130 companies, providing the Michigan Tech community with hands-on learning opportunities fostering business and entrepreneurship.

Housing nearly 300,000 square feet of research space, Michigan Tech’s research expenditure in 2017 was approximately $50m

Widely regarded as having a prestigious Information Technology program, Michigan Tech was recently ranked by Niche.com as a top-10 school for IT. 

Texas Tech University (Lubbock, TX)

Texas Tech University
Public domain photo by Elred via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most important universities in the country, Texas Tech spends nearly $200m a year in research, giving it the prestigious R1 designation by the Carnegie Classification. Less than 3% of all schools in the nation are given the rarefied R1 designation.

Texas Tech’s faculty, researchers, and students in engineering and STEM have changed the world in a number of fields; major projects at the university include those in epidemiology & health, space, nanophotonics, pulsed power, grid computing, and much more.

More specifically, Texas Tech’s breakthroughs have had significant impact in our contemporary world. Texas Tech has developed the only human blood substitute, known as HemoTech. Other medical advancements in the past decade from Texas Tech include creating a technology that could potentially treat HIV.

Texas Tech has also made important contributions to NASA. Researchers led by Texas Tech faculty member Daniel Cooke undertook a project funded by NASA for $350m known as the Intelligent Systems Program. This project helped revolutionize the computer science capabilities of NASA.

Alumni of the program have impacted the world in engineering, technology,  and beyond. Prominent alumni include astronaut Rick Husband, at least a half-dozen Texas senators, CEOs of major tech companies, and tens of thousands who have changed the world.