Innovation, Entrepreneurship and the Science of Smart Cities (ieSoSC) is the unique continuation of the SoSC program offered here by the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Sponsored by National Grid, ieSoSC is meant to be a more advanced course for returning middle and high school students already familiar with Arduinos boards, coding, civil engineering, and other subjects covered in the original Smart Cities curriculum. They continue with advanced concepts using coding and circuitry from the very beginning, deploying technical skills to improve quality of life and to conserve the environment. The skills they developed in public speaking and presentation were also expanded upon, building the confidence needed to effectively instruct others, thoroughly rounding out their capabilities in speaking about public service technology initiatives.
Serving one’s community in a manner suited to the modern world is a difficult task, and the students at ieSoSC required knowledge on the tools they would need to better navigate a tech-dependent age. They gathered with Prof. Debra Laefer, a longtime teacher of Civil and Urban Engineering, to learn about the methods used by conservation organizations and local governments to keep track of environmental degradation in a given area. Debra explained that this process is dependent upon the use of LiDAR (light detection ranging), a system which uses aerial infrared lasers to measure elevation. LiDAR can be used to measure the height and density of tree canopies, and so is incredibly useful when it comes to keeping track of forests.
Debra then went on to detail the use of LiDAR in detecting architectural damage to buildings, which can be used to repair sections of cities and the planning of new projects (like subway tunnels, etc.). Students discussed the means of producing such accurate measurements of change, techniques which will prove vital to the maintenance of large urban areas in the future. They also used their own variant of the technology used in LiDAR (albeit a much weaker version) to experience firsthand the process of measuring changes in a given area over time.
The students continued to learn about matters that will benefit urban life the next day, when they began programming “smart trash cans” that would make the process of waste disposal more efficient. Students were taught how to apply pressure sensors to trash cans, in order to measure both the weight of the objects inside the can, as well as how much pressure they exert on the cans’ sides. They installed ultrasonic sensors inside the cans’ lids, using them to measure the amount of trash in a given bin. The information gathered via these sensors was then transmitted via a cloud service to a dashboard designed by the programmers, allowing them to measure the volume and height of the material in each can in real time. The students crafted everything about the system themselves, wiring the sensors, building the circuits and coding the microcontroller that measures and transmits the pressure and data.
Using the many building blocks established from the Science of Smart Cities, the students of ieSoSC program appear far more equipped and comfortable than the average classroom. Aware and comfortable with both each other and the subjects they’ve tackled thus far, they remain strong in their studies, learning world-changing innovations which they too may innovate some day, for the benefit of humanity.
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Written by Henry McClure and Nicolas Parada