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Urban Technology Prototype Grants

Call for Applications

2022 Urban Technology Prototype Grants

University of Michigan
Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning

Seeking experimental software and hardware projects that offer new ways to engage with, think about, and push the limits of self-governance within communities and collectives, privacy in public space, and/or feedback loops within the built environment. 

Why Michigan?

The University of Michigan is a leading center of research on cities, sustainability, digital fabrication, and new materials—all of which contribute to the emerging field of urban technology. We at Taubman College have recently launched a new program in Urban Technology and are piloting several experiments to provoke discussion, debate, and experimentation as we grow. These grants aim to connect early-career professionals and recent graduates with our resources and expertise to support exciting, early-stage research.

Why you?

You build tools, techniques, processes or technological systems to see, shape, and inhabit cities in new ways; you have the skills to prototype your ideas; and you have a idea to prototype that’s too early, challenging, or risky for your day job—whether that be corporate 9-5, a freelance hustle, or academic research. This is a virtual opportunity, so you can develop your project from just about anywhere while still enjoying access to U-M resources, including mentorship from Taubman College faculty members. 

Projects might include:

  • Joyful tools for citizen science
  • Novel mappings, visualizations, or models of urban data
  • Open source hardware
  • Human Computer Interaction related to IoT, so-called “smart cities,” robotics, autonomous mobility
  • Software/apps for groups of people to coordinate and make collective decisions
  • Tools for community engagement and powerful expressions of community desire

We would also be excited to support the development of technologies that advance one or more of the following:

#socialjustice #antiracism #radicalinclusion #climate #nature #sustainability #trees #water #joy #compassion #dignity #community #cooperatives #foodways/foodsheds #access #criticalinfrastructure #dataprivacy #equitablemobility 

If you’re unsure whether these grants are a good fit for you, consider this flowchart:

Fast facts

Three applicants will be selected to receive project funding of $5,000 USD and access to University resources to develop their project during a 3-month sprint. Interested parties will be working remotely and be paired with a member of the Taubman College faculty who will be their mentor. At the end of the three months, we will host an event at Taubman College to present the work and collectively reflect on its implications.

 

Apply Now

Funding and resources

  • $5,000 project support funds 
  • $1,000 travel reimbursement budget for at least one visit to U-M during the award period
  • Each awardee will be hosted by a Taubman College faculty member who acts as their interlocutor and primary point of contact
  • Access to U-M library resources
  • Access to other U-M resources including 3D printers, robots, the FABLab, computing, the Ginsburg Center, the Detroit Center, and more
  • Access to the Taubman College building as a potential site for installations and prototypes
  • Connect with U-M’s and Taubman College’s cutting-edge research and community of scholars, including Urban Technology faculty and students
  • Inclusion of the project on a page on the Taubman College website

Application requirements

  • Contact information
  • C.V. or other links to work
  • Indication of which Taubman College faculty members you are interested in having as a mentor
  • Answers to the following questions:
    • What do you propose to do with this grant? Why is this important to you? (500 words)
    • How will you accomplish this within the 3-month timeline? (500 words)

Timeline

  • Deadline extended: Applications are due at 11:59 EST on November 22, 2021.
  • You will be notified mid-December of the jury’s decisions. 
  • For those selected, your grant period will begin January 5, 2022 and conclude April 15, 2022 with a Demo Day on campus. 
  • You will receive half of your stipend ($2,500) at the beginning of the grant period, and half ($2,500) at the midpoint. Travel costs will be reimbursed (up to $1,000) when receipts are submitted. 

Jury + Selection Criteria

  • Bryan Boyer, Director of Urban Technology degree program, Taubman College
  • Joshua Edmonds, Director of Digital Inclusion, City of Detroit
  • Gabriella Gómez-Mont, Founder and Director of Experimentalista
  • Roy Liu, Managing Director and Co-founder Hercules Capital, Inc.
  • Michelle Ha Tucker, Head of Design, Sidewalk Labs

The winning projects will be selected on a basis of novelty, importance, and viability. Does the proposal involve new and exciting ideas in urban technology? Is it important to the future health and sustainability of communities and/or the planet? Is the project as scoped and described in the application accomplishable by the proposer within the timeline available?

Q&A

Who are we looking for?
While the Prototype Grants are open to anyone, they are intended for individuals in the early stages of their career, including recent graduates, working professionals, and non-tenured faculty. It is open to any professional background and training, including artists, designers, planners, civil engineers, urbanists, design researchers, technologists, computer scientists, botanists, insurance examiners, engineers, geographers, poets.... 

Do I need to have a technical background?
You need to be able to build whatever you propose. If there is something specific you need help making, we can help point you to resources on campus (including Taubman College’s Digital Fabrication Lab, or FABLab), but the expectation is that you will be able to execute on your proposed idea without much outside assistance. 

Can a team apply for a grant?
Yes, but please be aware that the award amount and travel stipend is per project and will not be increased for a team.

Do I have to move to Ann Arbor?
Nope.

Would I have space to work?
We anticipate that your primary workspace will be elsewhere. However, when visiting campus you will have access to Taubman College coworking facilities as well as the U-M Library network and Duderstadt Center. You may also use the project funds for workspace if that is important to you.

Do I need to have a project proposal to apply?
Yes. We want to understand what you are planning to complete during the grant period, and how that project relates to the themes of this competition. 

Does my proposal need to be a brand-new project?
No. If you already have a project underway, the grant can be used to accelerate your work—just be sure to specify what is already complete, which organizations are already supporting your efforts (if any), and what you will be doing during the grant period.

What is the criteria by which grant proposals will be evaluated?
We are looking for innovative ideas that explore the future of cities, which are well-defined and can realistically be completed within a 3-month period. We are also looking for projects that applicants can complete on their own, without depending on the skills of others. 

Do I need to identify the Taubman College faculty sponsor before I apply?
You should review the list of faculty mentors and their interests on the application form, and then rank your preferences when you apply. We will work to match interested pairs together. 

If I am selected, when will I receive the funds?
You will receive half of your stipend ($2,500) at the beginning of the grant period and the other half ($2,500) at the midpoint. Travel reimbursements (up to $1,000) will be made after receipts are submitted.

What if I have more questions?
Email us at urbantechnology@umich.edu.

 

Apply Now

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