FOE Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Frontiers of Engineering?
The Frontiers of Engineering (FOE) program brings together through 2-1/2-day meetings a select group of emerging engineering leaders from industry, academe, and government labs to discuss pioneering technical work and leading edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors. The goal of the meetings is to introduce these outstanding engineers (ages 30-45) to each other, and through this interaction facilitate collaboration in engineering, the transfer of new techniques and approaches across fields, and establishment of contacts among the next generation of engineering leaders in order to sustain and build U.S. innovative capacity.

How many Frontiers of Engineering symposia are there? 
There are six Frontiers of Engineering symposia. 

U.S. FOE. Held annually since 1995.
German-American FOE. Inaugurated in 1998, and held twice every three years. Partner is the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. 
Japan-America FOE. Inaugurated in 2000, and held twice every three years.  Partner is the Engineering Academy of Japan.
Indo-American FOE. Inaugurated in 2006, and held biennially. Partner is the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum.
China-America FOE. Inaugurated in 2009, and held biennially. Partner is the Chinese Academy of Engineering
EU-US FOE. Inaugurated in 2010, and held twice every three years. Partner is the European Council of Applied Sciences and Engineering. 

What are some examples of topics covered in the symposia?
Each Frontiers symposium covers four topics that vary from year to year. Examples from past symposia include: visualization for design and display, nanotechnology, advanced materials, robotics, simulation in manufacturing, energy and the environment, optics, intelligent transportation systems, MEMS, design research, bioengineering, counterterrorism technologies, quantum computing, and bio-inspired engineering. Following each talk, there is substantial time devoted to discussion. In addition, breakout sessions, poster sessions, and other events offer ample opportunity for informal exchange among the participants. An alumni program supports continuing contact among the participants. Attendees find the programs useful and unique in their ability to bring together a diverse group for the purpose of exchanging information about engineering developments and challenges across disciplines. 

What is the format of the meeting?
Over the course of 2-1/2 days, attendees hear 15-16 presentations on four topics (3-4 speakers each). All participants attend all sessions. Each presenter is given 25 minutes for his/her talk followed by 20 minutes of Q&A/discussion. There are also break-out sessions, poster sessions, longer breaks and mealtimes, tours, and evening events to facilitate exchange among the participants. An organizing committee of engineers in the same 30-45-year-old age cohort selects the speakers and topics that will be covered in each session. 

How does one get invited to an FOE Symposium?
Attendance at the meeting is by invitation only following a competitive selection process. 
For the U.S. FOE, a nominations mailing is sent each February to CTOs, professors, NAE members, heads of government labs, and others.  We also get names of winners of "early career" engineer awards from professional engineering societies, NSF, ONR, and foundations.  Nominees are contacted and asked to submit an application providing information on current areas of research or technical work, a CV, and a commitment to attend the full symposium. The final list of invitees is determined with input from the organizing committee. Once someone has applied for the U.S. FOE, he/she can be considered for invitation to one of the bilateral FOEs as

What are the qualifications for participation in FOE?

Nominees should possess the following characteristics:

1.       be between the ages of 30 and 40, or at most, 45;
2.       have demonstrated accomplishment in engineering research and technical work with recognizable contributions to advancing the frontiers of engineering;
3.       be interested in engineering developments in other fields and able to consider how advances, techniques, and approaches in those areas relate to the nominee's own field;
4.       possess the potential to be a future leader in the U.S. engineering endeavor.

How many people attend each symposium?
The U.S. FOE is limited to about 100 engineers. The bilaterals are smaller with 30 participants from each country, or 60 total.

Where are the symposia held?
The Frontiers of Engineering symposia are held either at The National Academies’ Beckman Center in Irvine, California, at corporate or federal labs, or in overseas locations selected by our bilateral FOE partners. Corporate or federal lab hosts have included GE Global Research, Ford, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, HP Labs, Sandia National Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and IBM. The bilateral meetings alternate location between sites in the U.S. and the partnering country. 

Who sponsors the Frontiers of Engineering symposia?
Funding for the FOE symposia is provided by foundation, government, and corporate sponsors. These currently include The Grainger Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Department of Defense Research and Engineering – Research Directorate, and companies such as Microsoft Research and Cummins Inc., as well as corporate and federal lab hosts. Because of this financial support, there is no meeting registration fee, and travel stipends are available to those who need them.

What is engineering and what do engineers do? 
Engineering has been defined in many ways. It is often referred to as the "application of science" because engineers take abstract ideas and build tangible products from them. Another definition is "design under constraint," because to "engineer" a product means to construct it in such a way that it will do exactly what you want it to, without any unexpected consequences. Engineers are men and women who create new products. It is estimated that there are over 2 million practicing engineers in the United States. They work in fields such as biomedicine, energy, automotive, aerospace, computers, and many others that require people to create products that didn't exist before.

For more information about the Frontiers of Engineering program, contact Janet Hunziker at or 202-334-1571.