Mission 2017: Global Water Security

“Your Mission is to devise and plan the implementation of bold new strategies to ensure that all nations – including those considered to be underdeveloped – have access to clean fresh water while preserving freshwater ecosystems. Your plan should include incentives to get people to act on your solutions. This issue cannot be ignored and quite simply, the future of humankind hangs in the balance.”

Mission 2017 began with over forty MIT freshmen gathered in an auditorium and ended with a presentation to a panel of specialists and the general public on how to solve one of the world’s most pressing issues, water security. The class is student-driven from the first day to the last, and though alumni mentors and UTFs (undergraduate teaching fellows who have already completed Mission) provide guidance and advice, freshmen are expected to act as scientists and engineers from the start.

Most college classes involve lectures, homework, and tests, and no matter how difficult the problem is, a solution can always be arrived at. Solving Complex Problems (12.000) is nothing like most college classes. Students work in teams to research and propose solutions to an “unsolvable” problem: one that crosses disciplines and requires integration of engineering, science, economic, political, and social concepts. In past years students have taken on food security, carbon sequestration, and the future of strategic metals and minerals. There is no set structure; students organize themselves into teams and work independently to research and innovate solutions to their mission, learning how to utilize MIT’s vast resources along the way. The semester culminates in a student presentation and question and answer session; the Mission 2017 presentation can be viewed here.

A successful Mission requires collaboration, creativity, and effort, but every year, students have invariably delivered a thoughtful, comprehensive solution. Mission specialists leave 12.000 with a better understanding of group dynamics and interdisciplinary thought, and perhaps a new desire to tackle another one of the world’s greatest challenges.

To learn more about Terrascope, visit the class site.

To contact the students of Mission 2017, email terrafrosh2017@mit.edu

The students of Mission 2017 would like to thank these people, without whom the project could not have been completed:


Sam Bowring


Annie Bauer

Undergraduate Teaching Fellows:

 Ana Vasquez  Holly Josephs  Julia Longmate Patience Stevens
 Anna Walsh  Jaya Narain  Laura Standley  Rin Yunis
 Dirk Stahlecker  Jessica Fujimori  Lealia Xiong  Sabina Maddila
 Heather Sweeney  Judy Pu  Linda Seymour

Mission 2017 Students:

 Ali Trueworthy  Erin Reynolds  Joseff Kolman  Melanie Abrams
 Anna Jungbluth  Fiona Paine  Kristina Kim  Mohamed Hassan Kane
 Anthony Occidentale  Francesca Majluf  Libby Koolik  Shinjini Saha
 Brian Tom  Hayley Sypniewski  Malte Ahrens  Willow Jarvis
 Devin Morgan  Jason Hyun  Maria Ruiz  Zhishen Juju Wang
 Emma Chant  Jonathan Morrell  Martin Martinez