The Charles E. Schmidt College of Science is serving as a key partner for a major National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) at Florida Atlantic University. The grant is led by Columbia University, who is partnering with Florida Atlantic University’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE) and College of Engineering and Computer Science, Rutgers University, the University of Central Florida and Lehman College. The new Engineering Research Center for Smart Streetscapes (CS3) will be supported for five years with $26 million; renewable for an additional five years, for a total of up to $52 million.
The ERC program is NSF’s flagship engineering program to catalyze convergent research to address large-scale societal challenges. As one of the most competitive research programs in the country, CS3 was selected from among hundreds of candidate centers.
Two faculty members in the Schmidt College of Science are part of the leadership team for the grant. Donna Chamely-Wiik , Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate research and prestigious fellowships for the FAU Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (OURI), and associate scientist for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is supporting student involvement and research. John Renne, Ph.D., AICP, professor and director of the Center for Urban and Environmental Solutions, is focusing on the development of smart streetscapes.
Chamely-Wiik is a team lead who will oversee the workforce development, curriculum development and undergraduate research components of CS3 within Florida. Additionally, she will coordinate with the ERC executive committee to ensure the integration of the research and educational components within CS3.
“I am thrilled to leverage FAU OURI’s successes and our efforts in STEM education with undergraduate research and curriculum development and expand those best practices to other partner institutions across the nation,” said Chamely-Wiik. “Within the NSF ERC grant, we have an opportunity to positively impact our students, faculty and our community, as we equip the next generation with the skills necessary to tackle societal challenges.”
Across the university, this generous grant will create numerous new opportunities for undergraduate student researchers.
“Students will be able to participate in a series of course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs),” explained Chamely-Wiik. “Students will also be offered micro-credentials related to smart city technology and connected systems, within the undergraduate curriculum, with an emphasis on disciplinary convergence to facilitate life-relevant learning, to address the global talent gap, to diversify the workforce and to facilitate enhanced workforce development and training of the next generation of scholars and problem solvers.”
Additionally, summer research, fellowship and internship opportunities within industry, government and community collaborators will be accessible to FAU students. Post-doctoral students will be offered training on curricular pedagogies, as well as a Ph.D. fellowship. For K-12 grade levels, there will be a Research Experiences for Teacher (RET) program that will provide teacher training, development of lesson plans and creating streetscape components for K-12 schools.
“The goal of the grant is to bring technology to the streets,” said Renne. “This project marks one of the first times where urban designers and planners are working alongside computer engineers, data scientists, emergency management and city officials, to better utilize technology to make streets smarter. This approach is more effective for solving the multitude of challenges that cities are currently facing.”
The Florida Atlantic team, led by I-SENSE and the College Engineering and Computer Science, comprises researchers, staff and students across the FAU community, including FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Inquiry and the Office of Equity and Inclusion.
Renne is part of CS3’s urban planning team, where he will serve as an advisor on urban planning and design issues.
“I’m excited to work with such a creative team – composed of some of the best minds in the country – to find the best solutions to address climate change, mobility issues, and improve the vitality of our local main streets,” said Renne.
CS3 aims to create smarter streets that will enable a multitude of system improvements – and not just for cars. Scientists plan to make the streets safer for all modes of transportation, including emergency vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and delivery trucks. City engineers hope to design more effective stormwater management systems, monitor environmental conditions and improve landscaping.
“The center is going to work to build technology into the streets which will, in turn, make the streets more equitable to all people in society,” explained Renne.
At FAU, CS3 builds upon a longstanding partnership with the City of West Palm Beach, which includes the West Palm Beach Mobility Intelligence Project, led by FAU’s I-SENSE.
The project is anticipated to launch later during the 2022-23 academic year. More scientists and researchers from the Schmidt College of Science are expected to become involved as the venture continues.
Read more about this initiative on the FAU News Desk.