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MetroLab’s Innovation of the Month series, a collaboration between Government Technology and MetroLab Network which recognizes impactful tech, data and innovation projects between cities and universities, features NYU CUSP’s 2017 Urban Science Intensive projects. 

In this post, we spotlight projects from NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). In particular, the Urban Science Intensive Capstones, a program led by Professor Constantine Kontokosta, has become a mechanism to connect student teams to local government needs. MetroLab Executive Director Ben Levine sat down with Professor Kontokosta and this year’s two Capstone finalists to talk about the program and the finalists’ projects.

Ben Levine: What is CUSP and what is the goal of these capstone projects? What are the benefits of having students engage with city agencies?

Constantine Kontokosta: New York University’s Center for Urban Science & Progress is a university-wide center whose research and education programs are focused on urban informatics. Using NYC as its lab, and building from its home in the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, it integrates and applies NYU strengths in the natural, data, and social sciences to understand and improve cities throughout the world.

The Urban Science Intensive Capstones are projects which consist of team-based work on real-world urban issues. Teams work with a project sponsor — often a government agency or non-profit — to define the problem, collect and analyze data, visualize the results, and finally, formulate and deliver a possible solution. Student teams are challenged to utilize urban informatics within the constraints of city operations and planning, while considering political, social, and financial issues and balancing privacy and confidentiality with transparency. The goal of each project is to create impactful, replicable and actionable results that inform data-driven urban operations or continued research.