Smart Cities Student Design Competition

Finalists Announced

Congratulations to the five teams that have been selected to present their ideas and compete for a $1,000 award at the National Planning Conference in New York (Monday, May 8; 2:45 - 4:00 p.m.).

Kansas State University – Smart CATS
New York University – Adaptive Strategies
University of California, Los Angeles – UCLA MURPs
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – The All-Nighters
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – L.E.A.P.

About the Competition

Co-sponsored by the Divisions Council and the Student Representatives Council, the Smart Cities Student Design Competition aims to introduce and engage students in the Smart City discussion. The intent is that planners and other allied professionals (e.g., architects, landscape architects, engineers, etc.) work together as an interdisciplinary team to apply placed-based Smart City technologies to a specific site in New York City. A jury will review all entries, and five finalists will be selected to present their ideas at the 2017 National Planning Conference. The winning team will receive a $1,000 award.

Why Smart Cities?

APA recognizes that professional planners are uniquely qualified to provide leadership in defining, analyzing, and debating the issues of Smart Cities, particularly as it relates to placed-based strategies. The term "Smart City" has been around since the 1990s, and while definitions and applications vary, common elements among them are that Smart Cities use information and technology to engage citizens, deliver city services, and enhance urban systems. The use of Smart City technologies results in cost efficiencies, resilient infrastructure, and an improved urban experience.

APA's Smart Cities and Sustainability Task Force addressed how technological advances are changing the field of planning and our communities in a 2015 report. Since then, the Divisions Council has continued to advance the discussion on how planners can harness or influence the use of Smart Cities technologies in our communities.

The Site

The project site is located in the Chelsea neighborhood on the West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York. The site is bounded by 10th and 11th Avenues and W. 17th and 18th Streets. There is a bus station within the project site. Segments of both the High Line Park and Hudson River Greenway pass through the site.

One of the reasons the project site was chosen was that it appears to be a vacant lot in aerial imagery. Although there may be some form of new development on the actual property today, the intent of this student design competition is to view this site as a blank slate. In other words, the proposed designs should view this site as an unconstrained opportunity to develop the maximum number of Smart City ideas. In addition to the private parcel itself, the proposed project boundary includes the public right-of-ways to the abutting buildings in all directions. This provides each team with ample opportunity to identify both public and private Smart City actions which could be developed and/or implemented within the project boundary.

The NYC Department of City Planning's website offers a wealth of background information, including Plans/Studies and Data/Maps which can be used for background analysis and base mapping.


  1. All proposed improvements must be located on, under, and within the physical airspace of the project site boundary (delineated by the red line).
  2. While improvements can be proposed within the public right-of-way, no improvements are allowed on any of the private properties abutting the project site.
  3. While no off-site improvements can be suggested, proposed on-site improvements which may involve or improve connectivity to off-site areas should be described (e.g., a proposed bus station and/or trail improvements).
  4. No streets can be closed.
  5. No connection to the NYC subway system is allowed. This is because there is not currently a station or line on or under the site and it would be not feasible to do so for this project.
  6. The proposed design must be based in reality.

Criteria & Jury

The jury process will be a blind review process, meaning the identities of the creative student teams will not be revealed. Further, members of the jury will be required to recuse themselves from judging entries in which they have a conflict of interest (e.g., a juror who teaches as part of a planning program will not be able to judge entries from that program). APA retains the right to disqualify any entrant who does not meet the minimum student / team eligibility requirements or fails to disclose a conflict of interest.

Each submittal will be judged using the following criteria:

  1. Creativity of Ideas. The types and applications of Smart City technologies are dramatically increasing on a daily basis across the country. Each team will be judged on the creativity and quality of the Smart City technologies proposed as part of the project site design. (30 pts.)
  2. Quantity of Smart City ideas. Each team will be judged on the quantity of Smart City ideas that can be realistically implemented as part of the project site design.(25 pts.)
  3. Quality of Research, Writing, & Document Preparation. One of a planner's primary tools is a written report, plan, or study. Accordingly, each team will be judged on the quality of their research, writing, and document preparation. The report should be written and prepared in a manner that is easy to read and understand and is graphically appealing. (20 pts.)
  4. Quality of Design. Each team will be judged on the quality of their plan or design graphics. This may be an opportunity to include team members who bring specialized skill sets. (20 pts.)
  5. Team Collaboration. Working collaboratively as a team is an essential skill needed in the planning field. Demonstrate how the team worked collaboratively throughout the process. (5 pts.)
  6. Optional Content or Material. (up to 5 additional pts.)

Total Points. (100 pts. + five additional pts. for optional content or material = 105 pts.)

The jury will select five finalists which they identify as best meeting or exceeding the criteria set out below. The finalists will be asked to present their ideas at the National Planning Conference in New York. Creative student teams who are unable to attend will be disqualified and the next highest ranked team will take their place. The finalists will also be judged using the following criteria:

  1. Comprehensiveness, Quality and Effectiveness of Team Presentation. Each team will be judged on the comprehensiveness, quality, and effectiveness of the presentation at the National Planning Conference. (15 pts.)

Submittal Requirements

Each team must submit the following to be considered as an official entrant:

  1. Completed Entry Form
  2. Poster. A PDF of one (1) 36x48" (Arch E paper size) poster depicting the proposed design for the project site is required. If selected as a finalist, a printed poster must be brought to the National Planning Conference.
  3. Report. A PDF of an associated report indicating background analysis, researched best practices, and description of the proposed improvements is required. The background analysis should present a comprehensive understanding of the project site, immediate area, and greater region. Best practice Smart City trends and already-developed or -implemented examples should be compiled to provide justification for proposed site improvements. The proposed design should be further defined in the report (max.# of pages not to exceed 10 pp., double-sided).
  4. (Optional) Other. One additional content or material in any format may be used to further convey the design decisions made in your project. This could include creating a Smart City app, video, or using any other existing or innovative tool.

The entire submittal package shall be the sole work of the creative student team members.

Student / Team Eligibility

To participate in Smart Cities Student Design Competition, a minimum team of three must meet the following requirements:

Team Leader

  1. Be an enrolled student in a PAB-accredited program during the entire competition.
  2. Be a student member of APA.
  3. Be able, if selected as a finalist, to present your entry to a jury at the National Planning Conference in New York between May 6-9, 2017.

Additional Team Members

  1. All team members must be enrolled at the same college or university as the team leader for the entire competition.
  2. At least one additional team member must be able, if selected as a finalist, to join the team leader at the National Planning Conference in New York between May 6-9, 2017.

Entry Deadline

The entry deadline has passed.


Questions should be e-mailed to Matt Bucchin, AICP.