Rutgers Team to Receive $1 Million in Federal Funding for Smart Kids and Cool Seniors Project

September 22, 2023

A team of researchers at Rutgers University–New Brunswick has been selected to receive a $1 million Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC) award for a community-university partnership that combats climate change and improves access to essential resources and services.

CIVIC is organized by the National Science Foundation in two stages. First, teams utilized planning grants of up to $50,000 a team over a period of six months. These teams then refine their projects and compete for second-stage grants of up to $1 million a team. These second-stage awards will support ready-to-implement, research-based pilot projects and have been offered to a cohort of awardees in each track.

The Rutgers project, Smart Kids and Cool Seniors, seeks to assist low-resource urban residents as they adapt to increasing heat stress and local air pollution, both outdoors and indoors.

Photos of students being trained on electronic sensors to track heat and air pollution.
Training student participants about sensors.

It aims to support society’s efforts to develop effective responses to ongoing climate change, said Clint Andrews, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and principal investigator of the project, which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Bloustein School’s Center for Urban Policy Research (CUPR) and Rutgers’ Schools of Engineering, Environmental and Biological Sciences and Communication and Information.

Members of the project include Jennifer Senick, executive director, CUPR; Jie Gong, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Gedi Mainelis, professor of environmental sciences; and Sunyoung Kim, associate professor of library and information science. Rutgers graduate students from several disciplines will assist with the project, and a spring 2024 graduate urban planning studio at the Bloustein School will focus on Elizabeth.

When Groundwork Elizabeth and the Housing Authority of the City of Elizabeth (NJ) approached Rutgers for assistance, the research team knew they could help develop a sustainable, community-driven solution.

Jonathan Phillips, executive director of Groundwork Elizabeth, said the goal of this program is to give people a voice in their environment.

“We are giving our youth the opportunity to bond intergenerationally with our seniors to talk about environmental impacts that are of great concern for everyone in the community,” Phillips said.

“We are working in an environmental justice community in the heart of a densely-populated megalopolis. Air pollution from oil refineries, major highways, port traffic, and an international airport are all major impacts in Elizabeth,” said Andrews.

Digital Twin simulation of local air movement, site A in Elizabeth, NJ.
Digital Twin simulation of local air movement, site A in Elizabeth, NJ.

The compounded effects of environmental hazards and poverty threaten the health and well-being of seniors living in public housing, he noted, and young people living in these locations often lack opportunities to learn and develop science, technology, engineering, and math skills.

“This grant will enable air quality within our community to be examined and the impact of transportation, industrialization, and environmental changes will be documented,” said J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth. “The data will assist in short- and long-term planning events.”

In addition to developing a network of fixed outdoor and indoor air pollution and temperature sensors, the researchers provided youths living in the local community with environmental sensor-equipped backpacks to carry along routes used by seniors to measure personal exposures.

“The combination of these sensor networks will help establish a publicly accessible data hub, designed with input from an array of community stakeholders,” said Andrews.

The researchers will then build a modeling platform known as a dynamic digital twin to represent conditions in the public housing authority’s buildings and surrounding neighborhoods. The model will then be used to help the housing authority manage its facilities better in the future.

CIVIC is supported by the NSF in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and the Department of Energy.

Recent Posts

Bicycle Lanes Have a Calming Effect on Traffic – Study

A research study by Bloustein School researchers and faculty members Hannah Younes, Clinton Andrews, Robert Noland, Wenwen Zhang, and Leigh Ann Von Hagen, and others, was featured in Discerning Cyclist. The study, The Traffic Calming Effect of Delineated Bicycle...

MHA program earns CAHME Reaccreditation

The Bloustein School’s Master of Health Administration program has been awarded reaccreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME). “CAHME's mission is to advance the quality of healthcare management education globally....

Courtney Culler Wins Excellence in Student Support Award

Each year, the School of Graduate Studies recognizes the notable achievements of graduate students, faculty, and staff at our annual awards ceremony. These awards recognize important accomplishments in research and scholarship, teaching and mentoring, leadership,...

Rutgers Today Spotlight: Lisa Harrison-Gulla

From Rutgers Today Public Health Career Inspired By Family Legacy and Personal Challenges Lisa Harrison-Gulla began her public health career 30 years ago helping those suffering from addiction in their treatment and recovery. Now, she’s using her experience – along...

NJSPL – Industry Employment Growth in NJ

By Will Irving Unpredictability has been one of the defining features of New Jersey’s labor market for much of the last two years. As the state’s unemployment rate climbed to among the highest in the nation, payroll employment continued to grow steadily before slowing...

Upcoming Events

Event Series Informatics

AI Through a Rutgers Lens (Microsoft) Part 3

Microsoft, 885 2nd Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY 10017 885 Second Avenue, 34th Floor, New York, NY, United States

Please join us as we explore the world of AI with help from Rutgers experts who wrestle with these questions daily.
Socially Cognizant Robotics: Preparing for a future in which humans and robots regularly interact and society develops new rules.

Jersey City Alumni Mixer

Zeppelin Hall Biergarten 88 Liberty View Dr, Jersey City, New Jersey

Join us for an alumni mixer in #JerseyCity on Thursday, June 6th at Zeppelin Hall Biergarten. Parking for Zeppelin Hall is FREE - more information can be found here: https://zeppelinhall.com/map/. This […]