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MSU Leads 'Smart Cities' Research with help of $2.3M NSF Grant

Morgan State University Leads $2.3-Million Project to Train Minorities for ‘Smart Cities’ Research

Three-Year, NSF-funded Effort Involves 15 Historically Black or Hispanic-Serving Institutions

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded the initial phase of a three-year, $2.3-million project led by Morgan State University (MSU), in which undergraduates and teachers will be trained in technologies to revolutionize U.S. cities. The project, titled “REU-RET Mega-Site: Research Experiences for Undergraduates and Teachers in Smart and Connected Cities,” involves a consortium of 14 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and one Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and has as its goal to recruit and train a diverse population of students from minority groups that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as teachers in minority-serving K–12 schools and community colleges. Kofi Nyarko, D.Eng., associate professor in Morgan’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is principal investigator for the project.

“Morgan has a well-established reputation for providing STEM talent to vital research areas in the region and beyond, and current statistics show that our institution produces more technical graduates than the national average,” said MSU President David Wilson. “This project demonstrates Morgan’s continued leadership in STEM innovation as well as the kind of benefits that can flow from our collaboration with strong, committed academic partners.”

“I applaud Dr. Nyarko for his leadership role in developing and implementing this project,” said Craig Scott, Ph.D., interim dean of Morgan’s Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. School of Engineering. “We look forward to the impact this effort will make on engineering diversity and the quality of life in our urban communities.”

“Smart cities” use various digital technologies to collect electronic data using sensors, process and analyze the data and use the information to connect and enhance the lives of citizens. Monitoring and management of transportation systems, energy use, water use, health care facilities and schools are among the myriad areas for which “smart” technologies are being developed and utilized.

The trend toward smart and connected cities is linked to another trend made possible by the ever-increasing power of computers: “big data,” Dr. Nyarko explains. The sensors placed in the infrastructure of smart cities — in roadways, sewage systems and traffic lights, for example — will generate great amounts of data about the activity happening there. And the workforce demand created by this urban transformation will be huge. Smart cities will require engineers who know how the sensor technology works and how to integrate the sensors into the cities, engineers who understand how data are generated from sensor devices and those who know networking technologies to route the data to the appropriate centers for storage and analysis. Smart cities will also need engineers knowledgeable about algorithms, such as machine-learning models that can operate on the data in real time, who can extract meaningful information from the data to improve the lives of citizens.

As the lead institution, Morgan will be one of the five host sites for the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) and Research Experiences for Teachers (RETs), along with Alabama A&M, Florida A&M, Norfolk State and Prairie View A&M Universities. Three host sites, including Morgan, will be active each year. The project will train 30 students and 15 teachers annually and is designed to move the students toward doctoral degree programs in engineering and improve the quality of science and engineering education in local high schools and community colleges, further stimulating underrepresented minority students’ interest in STEM careers.

“This project is one of a kind,” said Dr. Nyarko. “It involves HBCUs and HSIs in a way that will bring research experience to a very wide Hispanic and African-American population, with the ultimate goal of moving the needle in terms of representation of Africans Americans and Hispanics in higher education, specifically in master’s and doctoral programs in engineering. I am very excited about this.”

The members of the HBCU/HSI consortium for the REU-RET Mega-Site project are Morgan State University, Alabama A&M University, Florida A&M University, Hampton University, Howard University, Jackson State University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, Southern University, Tennessee State University, Tuskegee University, the University of the District of Columbia, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the University of Texas at El Paso.

About Morgan
Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 100 academic programs leading to degrees from the baccalaureate to the doctorate. As Maryland’s Preeminent Public Urban Research University, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit

Larry Jones, University PR
(443) 885-3022

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