City Lab

I had a fascinating time the other week at Tempo in the Bon Accord Centre when I attended the final presentations of the projects developed through the latest City Lab programme run as a collaboration between the City Council, the University of Aberdeen and the Robert Gordon University.

Street tiles which generate electricity, a high-tech school bus which teaches STEM subjects in the community, a media database which captures stories from Aberdeen and interactive signage to signpost people around the city were just some of the ideas put forward at the event to help make Aberdeen a smarter city.

Students from the two Universities presented ideas for projects that would use technology to bring solutions to city-wide challenges as part of the programme.

The initiative, which is unique in Scotland offers a 10 week programme where students design solutions to solve social and economic challenges for the city of Aberdeen.  Potential investors from all sectors in Aberdeen then choose the most viable option to develop and implement.  This is the second year the programme has run.

The successful project selected by the stakeholders present was Event Horizon, which aims to address the shortage of skills in STEM-related careers (STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics).  The project is an outreach programme which would see a bus kitted out with the most advanced technology bring interactive learning and development to primary school children and their families in regeneration areas of the city.

The approach is to drive awareness of the opportunities through STEM subjects by using virtual and augmented reality to offer an immersive, alternative classroom experience.  Services offered by the digital bus would also include the use of digital printing to design challenges for pupils and to develop accessible and interactive coding workshops where school children can develop their own ideas and solutions.

The next phase for the Event Horizon project is to further develop a business case for the project and to then attract investment from multiple stakeholders in Aberdeen to make the idea a reality.

Work will also continue to find to find sponsors for all the ideas presented at the CityLab event.

One idea put forward was Next Step Energy which would introduce tiling on Aberdeen streets that would generate electricity when people walk to encourage growth as a renewable energy city.

Tales of the Silver City was an idea to feature stories from people in Aberdeen from all walks of life, talking about the place of Aberdeen and their memories on digital platforms in a bid to enhance our cultural identity and create a sense of place.

The Ad-vent Hub was a pitch to develop interactive signage for the city of Aberdeen to signpost people around the city and offer advertising and information platforms to business to help promote events to residents and tourists.

What I find most exciting about the City Lab initiative is the way it brings together partners to jointly identify issues and then co-create solutions to tackle them.  I’m really looking forward not only to seeing how this year’s projects develop but also to seeing a new cohort of students from both Universities tackling future issues.

Last year’s successful CityLab project has led to the Tuk-In project (check it out on twitter @TukInCFine ) – a mobile cafe, an electric Tuk Tuk kitted out as a food vendor, which will use in date food that would have otherwise been sent to landfill to create delicious, healthy, low-cost meals prepared by volunteers in CFine’s community kitchen.  The meals will then go out to areas of high food poverty and food insecurity, this will be backed up by selling food to business’s around Aberdeen with the profit raised being put back into the charity to support the community side.  The project is currently crowdfunding, take a look.