The Michigan Engineer News Center

Professor Lynch partners with School of Education Professor to win the Knight Cities Challenge

One of the winning ideas is called “Sensors in a Shoebox.” This idea was submitted by CEE Professor Jerry Lynch and School of Education Professor Elizabeth Birr Moje.| Short Read

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation recently announced that 37 innovative projects will share $5 million as winners of the Knight Cities Challenge. Each of the ideas centers on helping cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunities and create a culture of civic engagement.

One of the winning ideas is called “Sensors in a Shoebox.” This idea, which was submitted by CEE Professor Jerry Lynch and School of Education Professor Elizabeth Birr Moje, trains youth to use sensors and data analytics that track environmental conditions such as traffic, noise or temperature in city neighborhoods. The project will help students answer questions about their community and build ideas to make it better.

The shoebox kit consists of user-friendly, ruggedized sensors that can be installed in the urban environment to allow communities to measure the world around them, including environmental parameters, noise, vibrations, and motion.

Some envisioned community uses include measuring neighborhood air quality, exploring usage of city parks and public spaces, and anonymously observing residents’ mobility choices. The shoebox allows users to wirelessly stream data automatically from solar-powered sensors to the Internet where the data are stored, analyzed, and made ready for presentation. Community members will access a user-friendly data portal to gain unique insights about how their neighborhoods operate, while empowering community-based decision-making.

The program will engage Detroit youth in grades 8 through 12 as the future leaders, scientists, and planners of the city. An interdisciplinary team of engineers and educators will work with students to customize the sensing kit and refine the kit’s ease of use for all members of the community. By engaging Detroit youth, the pilot project aims to strengthen the Detroit workforce pipeline while encouraging youth engagement with their communities as citizen scientists.

“We are honored to have our project chosen by Knight Foundation,” Moje commented. “It is a terrific example of how partnering within the University and with the community can lead to innovations that have a real impact on people’s lives.”

As one of six winning Detroit projects, Detroit had more winning projects than any other Knight city.

To learn more about the Knight Cities Challenge, please visit

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Bob Brustman
Marketing Communications Specialist

Civil and Environmental Engineering

  • Jerry Lynch

    Jerry Lynch

    Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

The outside of the Ford Robotics building

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