Last Tuesday, May 31st, Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, Postgraduate Engineering Institute of Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE/UFRJ) and Columbia School of Engineering (SEAS) promoted the Open Innovation Day, where students from Columbia University and Federal University of Rio de Janeiro presented prototypes of innovative solutions for the challenges faced by big cities. The event brought together the sixteen finalist teams of the Design Challenges I and II, a two-set project designed by Rio Innovation Hub (a partnership between the two educational institutions and Rio City Hall); representatives from SEAS, such as Dean Mary Boyce, Professor Kartik Chandran and Professor Fred Jiang; and from COPPE/UFRJ, such as Professor Romildo Toledo and Director Edson Watanabe.
UFRJ and Columbia students and the representatives from both institutions (first line, in the middle)
Dean Mary Boyce (SEAS | Columbia) and Director Watanabe gave inspiring opening remarks, welcoming students to turn ideas for urban challenges into reality. Watanabe encouraged them to focus on "Things that I don't know that I don't know" by saying that it is there where we usually encounter great findings. Dean Boyce highlighted the successful partnership between both institutions and the importance of the cooperation for the future of the cities: "If we're able to come up with innovative ideas, even if we just nucleate them within our student body, we will, eventually, turn local impacts into world solutions.”
Representing the City Hall, Ambassador Laudemar Aguiar delivered Mayor Paes' message to look into solutions beyond the current administration by supporting the Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro, as well as nurturing a proactive partnership with Columbia University and UFRJ.
The prototypes presented by the sixteen finalist teams addressed both the urban water issues (theme of the Design Challenge I, related to the access, distribution and storage of water and its quality) and the challenges for building a smart and sustainable city via remote sensing (Design Challenge II).
Group 6, formed by Engineering students from UFRJ who participated on the second Design Challenge, developed the project “energy harvesting concrete from bike lanes”. The group was first inspired by some friends who wanted to ride a bike to work but, due to the lack of good public lighting, considered it too dangerous. Their idea consists in lighting up the way for runners, cyclists and pedestrians by imbibing piezoelectric material into the concrete matrix and capable of transforming the deformation of concrete into electric energy. At the end of the event, GloboNews, a major brazilian TV channel, and CBN, a brazilian radio broadcaster, interviewed Tamara Nunes, the team’s spokesperson, to learn about its applicability.
Tamara testing the group's prototype
From Columbia, Group 9, also a finalist at Design Challenge II, presented the Zika Zoom, an app that, in a collaborative data collection basis, identifies potential breeding grounds of the Zika carrying mosquito. According to the team, the app, both in mobile and web version, is already available for testing: “we stimulate you to try it and give us a feedback on what is working and what can be improved”, said Aditya Bagri, the group’s representative. The project’s goal, he explains, is to help concerned health/government authorities in taking suitable preventive measures to stop the spread of the disease.
Approaching the climate change theme, group 2 proposed the introduction of an Arduino Weather Station - a sensor that identifies the weather conditions - in Rio public buses. The team’s purpose is to research the covariance between bus traffic and air pollution.
Representing Design Challenge I, group 8 presented its idea of on-site treatment for wastewater in favelas. According to Diego Luiz, the group representative, the lack of wastewater treatment leads to pollution of waterways and causes public health issues. Their proposal consists in a decentralized treatment that uses energy from sludge through a package plant. Group 4, also addressing the urban water theme, presented as a prototype a mobile app that informs the rivers’ levels in order to warn people about vulnerable areas of flood and landsliding.
Group 3 shows the prototype for their project "wearable intelligent sensor for prolonged sun exposure"
Besides the participant teams and involved professors, the Innovation Day attracted a public of students and professionals interested in initiatives related to innovation, entrepreneurship, smart cities and technology. Representatives from the companies and foundations, like EMC2, Swissnex and Brava, were also present.
Columbia and UFRJ Researchers propose solutions for world problems (In portuguese). (CBN. May 31, 2016)
Project to turn mechanical energy from bike lanes into light for street lightning (In portuguese) (Globo News. May 31, 2016)