NYU Tandon Answers Call for Tech to Stem Gun Violence

Student Team to Enter Brooklyn Borough’s Smart Gun Design Competition

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams stood before the crowd at Borough Hall and laid out the challenge: 30,000 gun-related deaths annually in America, with two-thirds of them either accidental shootings or suicides. He announced a $1 million challenge to Brooklyn’s students to improve those statistics through technology.

“This smart gun technology competition is an effort at identifying how we can make guns smarter so the innocent won’t harm themselves and smarter so dumb criminals do not use guns to harm people,” he said at the August 16, 2016 announcement.

Kurt H. Becker, vice dean for research, innovation and entrepreneurship, answered from the podium: “I pledge to you, President Adams, that NYU Tandon will unleash the creative energy of its more than 5,000 students and 150 faculty members to play a major role in this challenge. Technology in service to society is our slogan. I cannot wait to come back here next year to see all the creative solutions our students have come up with.”

One of the dozens of students who already answered the call at NYU Tandon was Theo Allen (’18), a math major who lived near Sandy Hook, Connecticut, and who remembers vividly the day that children and teachers were massacred. He came to Borough Hall to testify to the importance of the issue and Tandon students’ commitment to finding a robust, commercially viable technology. Team recruitment will continue through the September 1-January 1 registration period, and the Tandon team will use its tested process of ideation, design and prototyping to develop their technology, Becker said.

The New York City Police Department will support the project with assistance in testing and viability. NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker praised the technology initiative. “Coming up with new technology that would prevent accidental or unauthorized use of firearms is something that is in the best interest of not just the city but all of the law enforcement folks who spend their time trying to keep people safe,” he said.

A blue ribbon panel of judges will evaluate student designs in three areas: apps that enable people to find their lost or stolen guns with their smartphones; fingerprint enabling; or an RFID chip ring that enables only authorized shooters to use a gun. Design concepts will be judged on the basis of market adaptability, feasibility, flexibility, safety potential, and potential for ancillary uses. The winning team will receive $1 million toward prototyping and development for commercialization.

Although teams will be sponsored solely by universities, they will accept young people throughout the community in order to fully engage the age group most affected by gun violence, Adams said. To register for the NYU Tandon team, email engineering.communications@nyu.edu.