Category Archives: Science of Smart Cities

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






June 11th marked the first day of preparation before the Center’s summer programs begins at NYU Tandon. During the last two weeks our instructional teams, made up of current (or recent) undergraduate and graduate NYU students in engineering and computer science majors, are meeting to plan their courses and activities for the summer. The programs’ goal is to introduce high quality STEM education to middle and high students and teachers from all around New York City’s boroughs, who may not have the opportunities otherwise.

Preparation for the summer has differed from group to group, depending on their course objectives. In Science of Smart Cities (SoSC), instructors, co-lead by graduate Integrated Digital Media student Jason Charles, worked together to create a water syphoning activity using straws and cups to illustrate methods of water conservation. The day after, the instructors focused on another civil engineering based activity, in which structures made of sticks of balsa wood were evaluated and judged based on their ability to withstand force. 

ieSoSC, an offshoot of SoSC, has also been working on applying engineering and technology to urban life and cities. Lead by PhD students Ana Elisa Mendez and Yu Wang, their team’s notable activities include a device which measures the purity of water using sensors and circuits, as well as a trash can that uses a Seeeduino circuit board and Wifi to alert users when it is full and in need of replacement. These activities for students are designed to demonstrate practical examples of smart city technologies that use microcontrollers, sensing, and cloud computing for every day applications.


Another program coming to life is Creativity in Engineering, Science, and Technology (CrEST), where the focus so far has been on making Arduino circuit boards fun and easy to understand for kids. During the academic year, CrEST is taught to high school students who then intern at Tandon, under the supervision of our own students, and go on to teach one week workshops to middle school students.

If connected correctly, the boards will reward the builder by vibrating, lighting up, or even playing music. The creativity from these completed circuits has endless potential and is focused on getting kids involved in a tactile, immersive way. Karen Beltran, a Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student and the lead instructor for CrEST, says “Working with circuits is especially fun, because they’re very hands on and the kids are immediately surprised at how easy and accessible they are. Also opening this opportunity to them while they’re young gives them the early confidence and ability to open their future potential when it comes to wiring and robotics in general; It’s very important but very fun as well”

The robot Karen holds above is a vibrating battery, connected to an on/off switch. Once the circuits are arranged correctly, the device vibrated the cup with markers attached, which then drew colored paths on paper as the device ran.

Outside of building and experimenting with curriculum, all our student instructors also spent a day working together to ensure their classrooms are as inclusive and learning-friendly as possible. In a session designed and led by Dr. Sheila Borges and Katherine Salamone, the Center’s Assistant Director and Projects Manager respectively, instructors completed activities together as well as ran through various trainings and culturally relevant pedagogy. In these, instructors created their own class rules, solved hypothetical situations through dialogue, learned essential protocols, and took bias training to ensure classrooms were as inclusive and participatory as possible. Here, instructors came away with a greater sense of community with one another and took the next major step towards leading the summer programs.

In the next week, this prep will be expanded with the help of folks from the Irondale theatre in Brooklyn.  During these sessions, the groups will participate in improvisation training to inspire the instructors and provide them with helpful presentation and public speaking skills for teaching.


Summer 2018 is gearing up to be the most significant season in the Center’s history, with goals aimed towards expansion, inclusion, and providing the best possible STEM education for NYC’s young people.

For more updates on the programs, activities, and people, follow the center on Twitter and Facebook!

Written by Nicolas Parada, Media Specialist NYU K12 STEM Center



IMG_3390At the Games For Change Student Challenge in December, students from all over New York City came to the Museum of the Moving Image to learn about creating a smarter city using computer programming. Using activities adapted from the Science of Smart Cities program, NYU Tandon School of Engineering students introduced the audience to technologies that can make a city more energy efficient, safe, and livable such as solar panels and radiation detection.  The NYU Tandon students then provided guidance and expertise to groups of participants to begin challenges like how to turn on a light bulb by giving instructions to a computer, both wired and wireless.


In one group, Casandra, from PS126 Manhattan Academy of Technology, related programming to music. “This kind of stuff helps you think about other problems, just like music in a way…it teaches you to think about multiple things at once and how many things can connect to each other.” Recently having joined computer programming clubs, she wants to learn more.

Alyssa, from IS239 Mark Twain School described how much engineering and technology have influenced her. “Being able to create new tech and revolutionizing it really appeals to me. And also it’s really fun.” Most curious about environmental-related technology, Alyssa said inventing something that would affect everyday life appealed to her.


After these group projects, everyone was surprised to be greeted by Minerva Tantoco, New York City’s first Chief Technology Officer in the mayor’s office. Tantoco encouraged the students to continue studying and pursuing computer and technological sciences. “We need more techies… more people like you… it’s a cool job and fun as well… use your superpower for good.” Students engaged Ms. Tantoco in a conversation about technology careers and then returned to their groups to start task two.


Some familiar faces demonstrate the success of NYU Engineering students K12 STEM education work. Ben, a middle school student who attended Science of Smart Cities on the NYU Engineering campus last summer, was happy to share with his group the programming skills he’s gained since then. Other students, like Alyssa, ended the Games for Change event looking forward to more tech learning, happy to be a part of this growing community.




The ‘A’ in STEAM is for arts. For the past two years, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Center for K12 STEM Education has partnered with the Irondale Ensemble Project for its Science of Smart Cities middle school engineering design and ARISE high school summer research programs. To help these students become confident presenters of scientific information, Irondale employs theatrics such as role play, improvisation and group challenges. Their practice pays off at the SoSC Expo and the ARISE Colloquium when the students explain their work to their teachers, families, reporters, and NYU students and professors. Some SoSC and ARISE students shared their thoughts on the impact of Irondale workshops:


“In Irondale, you get the confidence you need to talk in front of many people. I actually used to be very nervous in front of people. In Irondale, we have challenges that make us stronger, and we practice to have a lot of confidence when the big day comes. The skills I have learned are confidence and stamina. I will use these skills in the future when I have a job and if I have to represent something that’s part of my career. After Irondale, I will have lot of confidence about what I’m going to explain.”  -Alan, SoSC

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_050“We learn how to speak, how to project our voice, and how to be more energetic. Later in life you can’t be shy. This Friday, we will use these skills when we are presenting. After Friday, we’ll use these skills… if we have a presentation in school so everyone would be able to hear and we might get a better grade. I wasn’t this bold before Irondale started. My voice was quiet. What I’m going to remember most are the skills and tips they taught us about presenting in general… don’t fiddle with your hair, don’t swing your arms back and forth, and remember to look around at the audience.” – Cameron, SoSC

“In Irondale, we learn how to express ourselves…get out of our comfort zone, and we learn that it’s not so bad to talk in front of crowds. Another skill we learn in Irondale is speech…when you touch and twist your clothing, bite your nails or put your hands in your pocket, you hide yourself, it seems like you’re unsure of yourself. You want to convince other people that you know what you’re talking about. Is it really difficult, to go up on stage and talk to a crowd? For me, it’s like being in a novel; you are the character, and you must present well to an audience of readers.” -Chelsea, SoSC

20150803_ARISE_Irondale006“Irondale…creates this fun atmosphere where no one’s judging each other and we’re all just having a good time while still learning. In any field, communicating one’s ideas and thoughts is vital, so Irondale not only helps us learn how to present thoughts in our colloquium, but also going forward in any situation where we need to convey our thoughts and ideas, we’ll have this skill to let people know what we’re thinking.” – Pranav, ARISE

“I think Irondale helps you project who you really are to an audience or to even to an individual. We have the colloquium on the 21st, so I think Irondale is going to be huge help for that… and in any future profession I want to get into, I feel like I have better communication skills now, I am more free to be myself…Irondale made me remember that everyone’s human and no one’s perfect. You see everyone mess up, and everyone’s being so silly, and it really makes me happy that everyone can connect by being imperfect.” – Pedro, ARISE

20150729_SoSC_Irondale_044“When you get questions thrown at you, you have to be quick on your feet. I think these skills are important in life not just ARISE, because there are going to be times where you have to present yourself a certain way, you have to look distinguished, you have to not be nervous. So being brave, being ready at a young age makes it easier in the future. When you’re looking for a job, when you’re interning…it makes that whole process easier because you’re not shy, you’re not nervous of the moment, and it makes opportunities come to you a lot easier too, because people like people that are ready, that are chivalrous, that are excited to learn.” – Ayinde, ARISE

“The skills we learn are how to be comfortable on stage, to not get nervous, to have a thorough and thought-up plan of what you’re going to say. Even if a question surprises you, you could still answer it comfortably, and use that question as a stepping stone to continue your presentation. These skills are important for everything…for presentations, for interviews as well, you feel more comfortable and you present better. Five to ten years from now, I’ll remember how Irondale Theater helped me become a better person at presenting.” – Jakub, ARISE

Thank you, Irondale, for another successful year of partnership and for providing young people with communication skills they’ll use for years to come.




Last Friday, the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Science of Smart Cities program culminated with its fourth annual Expo, a demonstration of model smart cities designed and built by the forty-seven middle school participants. Proud family members and teachers were able to view the models while the students explained how their cities incorporate the engineering lessons they had learned in the classroom.

DSC_5375During the previous four weeks, NYU engineering students taught the participants science, technology, engineering, and math content through hands-on curriculum. Designed at NYU SoE, the curriculum focuses on Energy, Urban Infrastructure, Wireless Communications, and Transportation. The participants incorporated what they had learned about engineering aspects of sustainable and resilient cities when designing their own smart city and then taught this back to the Expo attendees.

DSC_5396Speaking in front of a group and answering unexpected questions both take skill, as does explaining complex STEM concepts using plain language. To help the students prepare for the Expo, they received ten hours of training in public speaking, improvisation, and communication skills by members of a theater group, The Irondale Ensemble Project.





The Science of Smart Cities 2015 program was supported through generous funding from National Grid.



Forty-seven NYC middle school students have spent the past two and a half weeks of their summer at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s campus in the Science of Smart Cities (SoSC) program. SoSC introduces students to concepts in science, technology and engineering with a focus on urban planning and sustainability. The curriculum includes hands-on activities surrounding energy, urban infrastructure, transportation systems and wireless communications.

In its fourth year, the curriculum, which has been developed by NYU SoE students, makes abstract science and math concepts more concrete by explaining how they apply to students’ every-day surroundings. The students design their own Smart City for an Expo at the end of the program, along with weekly group problem-solving and engineering projects. The creativity allowed by the program makes an impression on students and has a positive impact on their relationship to STEM subjects. Three interns this year, Aarti, Jaela, and Zipporah, were so drawn by the program as participants last year, they have returned to volunteer.

“I really liked how we could design our own city using what we learned. Although the instructors gave their own input, it was mostly us, so we got to learn while creating. It really gave me a different perspective on science. I used to think of it as something only used by doctors and such, but now I understand how it plays a role in our everyday lives.”  -Aarti

“I liked that we were able to do a lot of different activities, go on trips, and learn a lot about a lot of different things. The year before I came to Science of Smart Cities, I was not that great at math and science. It was just a whole bunch of numbers. Then, I learned a lot more about science…it all makes sense now. I wanted to come back because it was really fun last year, and I want to help the kids have more fun this year.”  -Zipporah

“I liked that it [SoSC] gave kids the opportunities to explore new things. My experience the first year was really fun. I got to meet a lot of new people, try a lot of new things, and I came back this year to teach kids the same thing. SoSC showed me how to have a hard drive, how to work hard towards goals. It also showed me that there’s a real output to the things we learn.”  -Jaela


Vicente, from the Science of Smart Cities pilot year in 2012, and Ayinde, who participated in an after-school version of SoSC through Harlem Educational Activities Fund, have entered the 2015 class of NYU SoE’s high school summer research program, ARISE where they will conduct research in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics Lab. SoSC shaped their views on STEM education and their decision to pursue civil and urban engineering

“SoSC introduced me to the field of STEM, so I was more conscientious about what’s going on in the world regarding STEM… it allowed me to further my STEM education and know more about it.”  -Vicente

“SoSC has helped my future in a lot of ways. It has also shaped the way I look at the planet as a whole. Before I took the course, I was just nonchalant. The course really helped me because we worked with soil mechanics, circuit boards, circuity, all connected into one, so you get a feel or a view into all different paths of science.”  -Ayinde

Science of Smart Cities piloted as a summer program at NYU in the summer of 2012. Since then, the program has been replicated off-campus as an after school program through the Harlem Educational Activities Fund, in Malaysia as Bitara STEM, and now in NYC public schools as part of the NYC Summer STEM program. SoSC is made possible with support from National Grid.




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It is one week until Science of Smart Cities Expo day! The students have been involved with many hands-on and team-based activities to prepare for building and designing their model cities. They are also enjoying field trips around Brooklyn to gain historical and present-day perspectives on urban infrastructure, wireless communications, and transportation. Field trips include visits to the New York Transit Museum and the LEED Silver-certified Barclays Center. On the final day of the Science of Smart Cities program, the students will showcase the model cities that they built and present how their cities incorporate the engineering lessons they learned in the classroom and from their field trips. 

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Earlier this week, two middle school teachers from Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate (from the Uncommon Schools network) dropped by the Science of Smart Cities classroom to see their students build circuits, as part of the Energy Unit of the program’s curriculum. The day of the visit, the students learned about the flow of electrons through a conductor and how the material of a conductor affects electrical current in the circuit they built.

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L to R: Ben Esner, Director of the Center for K12 STEM Education, Akshay Fadnis, MS Candidate in Computer Engineering, Eduardo Suescun, PhD Candidate in Civil Engineering, Dominick Dennisur, BS Graduate in Mechanical Engineering, Arnab Paul, MS Candidate in Electrical Engineering

The Center’s global partnership with the New York Academy of Sciences’ K12 education outreach program and the National University of Malaysia (UKM) continues this month with the Center’s second trip to Kuala Lumpur from February 13 – March 1. The goal for this trip is to adapt the Science of Smart Cities curriculum’s urban infrastructure, transportation, and wireless communications units for Malaysian high school students. In Malaysia, this adapted program is known as the Science of Smart Communities or Bitara STEM and this trip follows-up on the Center’s first trip last September.

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