News Release: BSU and UIC Selected for APA’s Academic Tech Innovator Grants

CHICAGO — The American Planning Association (APA) has selected Ball State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago as this year’s recipients of the inaugural Academic Tech Innovators Grant.

The grant is designed to enable academic teams to present their planning-related technology innovations at APA’s National Planning Conference (NPC17), May 6–9, 2017. More than 5,000 planners are anticipated at this year’s premier event.

The grant is an opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of the academic sector in creating stronger communities and enhancing the planning profession. APA will cover all expenses for two people from each university to NPC17, present a contribution of $500 toward ongoing research efforts, and provide exhibit space within the NPC17 Tech Zone to share the technology with conference attendees.

The two teams receiving the Academic Tech Innovators Grant were selected for enhancing public education about planning issues and engaging community members in planning processes.

“My Town” App

Ball State University, College of Architecture and Planning

Faculty Scott Truex and Lohren Deeg will share My Town: A Mobile App for Community Inventory and Analysis. The app will allow students and citizens to capture qualitative inventory and analysis by capturing imagery that exemplifies community character and quality of place.

The developers designed the app to utilize the existing features of cellular network-enabled mobile devices, including geospatial mapping, global positioning and proximity markers, and the built-in camera. The app’s thumbs up/down option, hierarchy of tags, and comments will yield tremendous insight for planners, while opening the discussion on community planning to a broader audience.

Participatory Modeling for Green Infrastructure Planning

University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs

Faculty Moira Zellner, Leilah Lyons, and Dean Massey will demonstrate their green infrastructure participatory planning for stormwater management. The technology-enhanced “board game” integrates scientific data and models with citizen, public official and engineer concerns.

Through collaboration, participants will recognize unintended consequences and resolve the inherent tradeoffs of complex environmental problems. The game provides a unique opportunity to enhance public awareness about green infrastructure and balancing community wants and needs.

Both university teams will be exhibiting in the Tech Zone, a dedicated space within the exhibit hall that houses a variety of interactive, technological displays on behalf of both established and emerging professionals. Academic participants last year included MIT’s research on augmented reality and Michigan Tech’s application of drones within the field of planning.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic, and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with nearly 37,000 domestic and international members. For more information, visit

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Roberta Rewers, American Planning Association, 312-786-6395;

March 29, 2017