Tech Zone

Back for its third year, the Tech Zone is the place to try out cutting-edge tools, see the latest technological advances in planning, and hear about new research in the planning pipeline.

Make sure to drop by the Tech Zone Presentation Stage while you're there. Check out the Tech Zone Stage schedule.

New This Year

  • University Village — APA is sponsoring the Academic Tech Innovators Grant, a competition for two grants to support university-level planning technology research. Catch the winners' presentations on the Tech Zone stage and visit their booths in the Planning Expo to learn more.
  • Startup Station — Check out the latest in emerging planning technology from six startups and get inspired by their demonstrations on the Tech Zone stage.
  • Data Jam — A data jam is a workshop that uses data sets to solve specific challenges or answer questions. The NPC17 Data Jam, conducted in partnership with Beta NYC — a civic organization dedicated to improving lives through civic design, technology, and data — seeks to engage city and regional planners to help New York City's Department of City Planning clean up and enhance its newly launched Facilities Database. Why get planners involved? Municipal facilities help to shape neighborhood residents' quality of life and this data set is the basis for a series of planning activities.

    The Data Jammers will be working in the Tech Zone all day on Monday, May 8. There will be a formal introduction to the project at 9 a.m. on the Presentation Stage, and a closing presentation at 2 p.m. But please stop by to observe or ask questions at any time! Learn about civic hacking and what you can take back to use in your own community.

Returning Favorites

  • Drop by the Tech Zone stage, supported by Sidewalk Labs, for a wide variety of 30-minute, tech-focused sessions — some offer CM credit!
  • Get your hands dirty at the SimSandbox — This is no ordinary sandbox! Prepare to be amazed as you manipulate a virtual landscape in real time by playing with sand. Simulate erosion, flooding, sea level rise, and much more. It's time to be a kid again!
  • Draw in another dimension with 3D printing pens. "Draw" in three dimensions by melting plastic strands.

Academic Tech Innovators Grant

APA is proud to announce a new initiative that promotes and supports university-level research that contributes to the fields of urban planning and public policy. We invited students, faculty, and academic staff at accredited planning programs to apply for the grant, which offers all-expenses-paid attendance at the 2017 National Planning Conference in New York City.

Winners Announced!

Ball State University, College of Architecture and Planning

"My Town" App

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.

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

Participatory Modeling for Green Infrastructure Planning

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.


Selected grantees will be provided space to display their work in the conference Tech Zone and time to present a session on the Tech Zone Presentation Stage. Each grantee also will receive $500 to be used for ongoing research efforts.

APA recognizes that there is a wealth of knowledge and emerging talent within a range of academic programs. The Academic Tech Innovators Grant is a way for our association to show appreciation for that work, introduce emerging technology to conference attendees, and help optimize the impact that the academic sector has on creating better communities.

This competition favors programs or individuals developing or completing the development of physical hardware or software intended to improve planning practices as well as new applications of existing technology.

For eligibility and application details, download the program fact sheet.