Significant Traction with Downtown Chattanooga

Edney Building, UTC sign, Friday, September 18, 2020 on 11th Street.

UTC moves CUIP into Chattanooga’s innovation district 

When the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga established a full-time downtown presence by relocating a couple of its high-profile entities to the Edney Innovation Center, a powerful symbol of greater community engagement and collaboration between the University and the city joined the landscape.  

The Edney Building on Market Street anchors the city’s growing Innovation District and, as of 2020, houses the award-winning UTC Center for Urban Informatics and Progress, or CUIP. 

“We are proud of our partnership with Chattanooga and look forward to establishing a more impactful downtown presence,” says UTC Chancellor Steve Angle. “Partnering with the city and its innovators to develop solutions to urban challenges is part of our mission-driven focus. Our goal is to be a resource of expertise, discovery and talent that powers the region’s economy.” 

Established in 2018, CUIP conducts research for Chattanooga’s Smart City Collaborative into transportation, energy delivery and healthcare consumption toward solutions that improve quality of life in cities. In a September 2020 example, two UTC graduates, Jeremy Roland and Austin Harris, went before the Chattanooga City Council asking for funds to continue two projects being researched through CUIP. One project hopes to accurately predict where vehicle accidents are most likely to occur in Chattanooga. The other focuses on improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists on city streets. The council unanimously approved $110,000 to fund both projects. The money will be used to hire new students—both graduate and undergraduate—to work on the research projects. A second CUIP project presented to the council hopes to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists on city streets. The council unanimously approved $110,000 to fund both projects. 

“It’s a great environment, being with the Enterprise Center and the city’s IT group. Then EPB is across the street. TVA is across the street. It’s really about being with everyone and all the entities in that innovation district—these are the people we already work with on a daily basis.”

Relocating from the UTC Multidisciplinary Research Building in the M.L. King Boulevard neighborhood to the Innovation District allows greater collaboration with all CUIP partners and the entrepreneurial community. The Edney Building houses The Company Lab, or Co.Lab, a nonprofit startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurship. The opportunity for close collaboration with Co.Lab was particularly compelling to Mina Sartipi, who leads CUIP and is an accomplished researcher and nationally recognized leader in Smart Cities research. “When businesses come to us, they really have business opportunities, and our support for those means CUIP is becoming larger than just a purely research entity,” Sartipi says. “It’s a great environment, being with the Enterprise Center and the city’s IT group. Then EPB is across the street. TVA is across the street. It’s really about being with everyone and all the entities in that innovation district—these are the people we already work with on a daily basis.”  

Also within the Edney Building is The Enterprise Center, which oversees the Innovation District, and co-working space provider the Society of Work. The Chattanooga offices of Oak Ridge National Laboratory are a block away and serve as another draw for students, faculty and others to the innovation ecosystem. UTC’s downtown presence also makes incubator space available for new entrepreneurs from the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at UTC. Students, faculty and staff from the University support education and outreach. They research and host presentations and discussions of projects underway at the University’s downtown entities. From there, people and groups from across all colleges at UTC engage the community in discussions on the future of education, science, technology and their societal impact. 

In 2019, the Chattanooga Smart City Collaborative—CUIP’s research partner—was selected as one of the nation’s Top 50 projects of the year by US Ignite, an organization that connects municipalities and private enterprise on “Smart City” projects. In 2020, the collaborative was again named a Top 50 Smart City project by US Ignite for ethical data use 

The project that won City Council funding in September—CUIP’s computer model to predict where traffic accidents will happen—was named a 2020 winner in the International Data Corp. Smart City North America Awards. Making CUIP’s robust offerings of workshops and events more accessible to greater numbers of people off campus and in the city leads to greater community exposure and engagement for UTC outreach, Sartipi says. “I think we see it really as a downtown campus, an area that would bring together many different disciplines and people working together more closely than we already are,” she says. “It is very exciting, and I’m thrilled.”  

State of the Art Happenings

By Shawn Ryan

The eight-block section of Martin Luther King Boulevard looks like just any another section of Martin Luther King Boulevard. That is, until you look more closely. A series of cameras have been keeping an eye on intersections along the 1.25-mile stretch. Poles at each intersection have three cameras mounted on them to visually document everything that goes on at each one. Everything includes the number of cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians—even dogs—that pass through. Goals are wide-ranging for the cameras, which are part of the city’s Smart City project. One element is examining flow traffic patterns to determine whether changes will make it flow more freely, including a way to predict where and what time of day that automobile accidents take place. The project also is looking at ways to improve the city’s energy consumption and delivery, public safety and health care, among others. 

This research is being conducted through the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress (CUIP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It is just one of the multiple projects in which CUIP plays a major role. “The groundwork has been laid for collaboration across university departments,” says CUIP Director Mina Sartipi. “We have many departments represented at CUIP that facilitate collaboration and an environment for students, faculty and staff to learn from one another. We believe the more knowledge that is shared, the better we all are for it.” 

In CUIP’s latest coup, Sartipi landed a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In collaboration with professors Yu Liang, Osama Osman and Dalei Wu in the UTC College of Engineering and Computer Science and Austin Harris from CUIP, they will examine ways to reduce fuel consumption and emissions in the city. Assistant Professor of Sociology Chandra Ward and Sartipi also are collaborating on projects with other universities. Grants of $2.1 million from the National Science Foundation and $1.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy will support projects with the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) to develop systems to bring public transportation into neighborhoods that aren’t on CARTA’s established routes. “CUIP’s network of private and public partners creates many opportunities across all UTC colleges for funding and partnerships,” Sartipi says. “We work with cities, universities, national labs and corporations across the country. CUIP is demonstrating the value of cross-disciplinary research and development with integrated experiential learning for our students.” 

Students also learn some less-obvious skills such as giving presentations, public speaking, professionalism and small talk, useful abilities when attending conferences and when students are leaving college to pursue a career, she says. “Our goal is to make urban livable, accessible and healthy for all. Through engaging students at high school, undergraduate and graduate levels in research and experiential learning, we train the next generation workforce that are capable of interdisciplinary work,” Sartipi says. 

“CUIP’s network of private and public partners creates many opportunities across all UTC colleges for funding and partnerships,” Sartipi says.

CUIP Awards 

  • Winner in the International Data Corp.’s Smart City North America Awards’ in the “Police and Law Enforcement” category for the “911 Project.” 
  • Winner of the International Data Corp Smart Cities North America Awards’ in the “Education”category for Chattanooga’s Smart Community Collaborative in which CUIP is a member. 
  • Winner of the Horizon Award at the Smart Cities Connect Conference for demonstrating “foundational and inspiring groundwork for future Smart Cities projects.” 
  • U.S. Ignite, Smart Cities Connect and Smart Cities Connect Foundation listed Chattanooga’s Smart City project as one of the Top 50 in the country in its Digital Transformation category for protecting citizens’ privacy during data collection and analysis. 

CUIP programs 

  • Social Science: Use the perceptions, reactions emotions and thoughts of residents before starting urban design projects. 
  • Public Safety: Create ways to address such issues as crime detections, emergency response, traffic safety and building/bridge construction. 
  • Water/Waste: Examine social and technical hurdles when designing storm water systems. 
  • Healthcare: Stroke rehabilitation and prediction. 
  • Mobility: Use technology to connect systems such as public transport, self-driving vehicles and traffic signal to improve safety and efficiency. 

Source: CUIP 

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