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New ASU course looks at creating smart, sustainable cities

Green city emerging from an iPad
August 07, 2014

It’s 7 o’clock, Monday morning. The year is 2034. Coffee in hand, mentally preparing for the day ahead, you’re out the door and ... the world is green.

Not necessarily in a literal sense. But every element of the city you inhabit reflects sustainability principles: from housing to advertisements, vehicles to roadways.

What would this world look like? Specifically, what role would smart technology play?

If you’re already in love with this future city but are finding it difficult to imagine more than bicycles and solar panels, you’re in good company – and in luck. Because it is this gap, the one between interest and innovation, that a new course offered through the School of Sustainability intends to fill.

In anticipation of Changemaker Central’s Innovation Challenge, an ASU seed-funding campaign that encourages every academic unit to create its own theme, the School of Sustainability teamed up with The Verizon Foundation. Given the foundation’s interest in innovative change, particularly in the area of energy management, the eco-conscious shoe fit, and the School of Sustainability’s theme was born: “How can we accelerate the adoption and deployment of smart technologies to make our cities more sustainable?”

This is a question that SOS 498: Smart City and Technology Innovation Challenge will address in depth – a noble endeavor in light of our rapidly urbanizing and “plugged in” population of 7 billion. And given the host of smart technologies that already exist, but whose potential for a greener good is not fully realized, answers are needed.

Colin Tetreault, former senior sustainability adviser to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and SOS 498 instructor, will provide a rich plot of expertise and experience for students to seed.

“This workshop-style course will feature local, regional and national guest speakers, all experts in their respective fields,” Tetrault says. “It’s going to be radically collaborative, and will incite the entrepreneurial spirit in all enrollees.”

Through scenario development activities like the one above, students will dissect the idyllic, ultra-sustainable city of the future and explore its underpinnings. Smart technologies like telematics, data aggregation and cloud computing will each take a turn on the examination table, their potential for sustainable urban enhancement carefully scrutinized.

Over the course of fifteen weeks, seedling ideas will flower into projects, prototypes and/or ventures. They will be refined under the guidance of experts and fellow SOS 498 classmates until a feasible and sustainable innovation has been fashioned.

As an added incentive, students can win up to $4,000 toward the ASU Bookstore, courtesy of The Verizon Foundation. All proposals will also be submitted to the Innovation Challenge for a chance to receive thousands more in seed funding.

Enrollment is now open to all. For students pursuing degrees in the School of Sustainability, the course meets the three-credit applied/capstone requirement.