Science of Smart Cities Makes a Splash

The SoSC program has officially begun!


Lead by our fantastic NYU Tandon students, middle schoolers from around NYC study and build the technology that many of our cities will use in the future. The objective of smart cities is to ensure a more liveable, efficient, and connected environment for urban life in the future. Teaching these concepts at a young age helps prepare the next generation for the impact of these technologies, as well as their own academic studies, leading to a beneficial future in which both scientists and their communities thrive.  

Another important benefit of the SoSC program is the addition of training to help the students become better public speakers, courtesy of the Irondale Theater here in Brooklyn, with 10 total hours of training throughout the duration of the program. At the start of the program, expressive games and speaking exercises introduced the students’ personalities and fostered early dialogue between them in a fun and comfortable way. The theatre training is scheduled in between classes through the duration of the month-long program to strengthen the student’s presentation and speaking skills as well as improve their comfort in conveying information with peers, specifically with STEM-related knowledgee.

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There are many examples of how the things students in the SoSC labs learn will one day benefit entire populations. Ben Esner, K12 STEM Director, cited the study of Smart Cars in the SoSC program going years back, emphasizing that today they are more common than ever. In the coming weeks, students will be learning skills like coding, circuitry, and other skills in the field of smart tech, preparing them to create the innovations of the future. The combination of this newer type of study alongside basic civil engineering is the core of what Smart Cities are all about.    


Before they could begin their studies of smart cities, however, they needed to learn the basics of how existing cities function, in order to blend these existing concepts with smart technology later on. In their first week, students of SoSC studied topics like water filtration and PH measurement, as well as the analysis of solar data, to understand the techniques employed by civil engineers in building infrastructure for large populations. All of the students were very eager to learn, build, and work diligently to come up with ways their findings could be applied to improve the systems which cater to the needs of the community.

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Students started out by performing a water syphoning activity, where they learned about water pressure and the importance of water conservation. The students also performed a water filtration activity in which they used paper filters and varying types of sediments to see which filtered water the best. They then performed a PH activity to test the acidity or basicity or certain substances. This taught them a valuable method of testing the purity of water, which they applied to their knowledge of filtration and impurity detection to better assess how communities might improve regulating and cleaning their water.


To end the busy week, students constructed towers made out of balsa wood, glue, and tape to measure their strength, height, width, and cost efficiency. Adding the concept of cost when it came to their materials was essential because it made the activity more realistic, and added the consideration of practicality and efficiency which is pivotal to great engineering. The first week culminated in the Great Balsa Wood Competition in which all the SoSC classes squared off against each other, determining which tower design could bear the most weight. It was a fitting send off for a week full of energy, engineering, and ingenuity.

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Written by Nicolas Parada and Henry McClure