Catalyzing Community Research and Innovation

Community research is a big part of the educational opportunities offered at Georgia Tech. Through senior capstone, studio, and other program courses led by GT faculty, students work on projects over a semester (or longer) to address a community’s needs while facilitating real-world, experiential learning and collaboration between students and the community. Students don’t come in with solutions off the bat, but rather recognize that addressing some of the most complex, pressing community issues requires building long-term university/community partnerships.

Community research projects are competitively selected, usually a semester in advance, and some may require additional resources, while others are fully funded. All programs expect students to have dedicated time within the community to work during the course of the project.

Below is a sample collection of past projects. This is a living document and by no means comprehensive, but rather a starting point for a community research engagement conversation. We encourage you to reach out to us to at SCI2@gatech.edu to express your interest in partnering with Georgia Tech to tackle challenges in your community.

College of Design

SCaRP Studio
Each year, the SCaRP program offers 4-5 design-focused studios in varying locations working with municipalities, civic groups, and private companies.

Example: Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Planning Studio
Georgia Tech City and Regional Planning Masters students completed a semester-long studio assisting Atlanta Public Schools with updating their facilities master plan with the goal of optimizing usage and efficacy of their properties. Sample Studio – WestEnd Hub.

Example: Lindbergh Studio
This studio worked in the Lindbergh neighborhood of Atlanta (north of Midtown, south of Buckhead), focusing on Peachtree Creek which runs, relatively concealed, throughout the neighborhood and the surrounding greenway. The team focused on urban design, development, green space for the neighborhood, and transportation changes, including bridges and transit. They had several stakeholders, including City of Atlanta, GDOT, Atlanta BeltLine, Atlanta CityCouncil, MARTA, Passion City Church, Rollins, Inc., Peachtree Creek Greenway, and PATH 400.

Example: Little Five Points

The Little Five Points studio set out to assist the recently formed umbrella organization of neighborhoods and businesses around Little Five Points (L5P) with identifying and advancing common interests. The studio worked with the Little Five Points Alliance to engage the community and identify a planning framework for future plans and actions. Issues identification emerged through reading history and past reports, extensive field trips, and engagement with all the relevant citizen and business organizations. The studio determined opportunities in connectivity and economic development and presented those final ideas to the stakeholders.

SCaRP Contact: Michael L. Poirier Elliott, Director, MCRP Program, michael.elliott@design.gatech.edu

Scheller College of Business

Leadership Minor Capstone Course
Leadership Minor Capstone is designed as an experiential exercise of leadership in a project-based setting. Each semester, projects are identified that will facilitate student access to relevant local governmental, non-profit, social enterprise or hybrid organizations. Students will work in interdisciplinary teams, to address the identified challenge of the organization to which they are assigned and will design a ‘context specific’ solution to address this challenge.

Example: Scheller students worked with Truly Living Well Center for Urban Agriculture (TLW) to develop an innovative plan to support expansion of TLW’s compost operations. View the project video here.

Contact: Sheena Brown, Academic Program Coordinator II, Scheller College of Business, sheena.brown@scheller.gatech.edu

Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

Policy Task Force
This Fall/Spring capstone course allows students to apply the knowledge and skills from their core and elective courses, internships, and other experiences to address a current policy problem faced by a government agency, not-for-profit organization, or business firms, providing them with real-time, expert analysis.

Example: Students worked with the Atlanta Local Food Initiative to analyze how other prominent US cities have approached urban agricultural phenomena in response to the increasing demand for a more sustainable local food system for Atlanta.

Example: In 2017, Project Sidewalk Scholars: Safe Routes to School Program Analysis won best Public Policy Capstone. The Sidewalk Scholars team interviewed participants in TAG Academy’s safe routes to school program looking at what worked and how the program could be improved.

Contact: Richard Barke, Director of Undergraduate Public Policy Program, richard.barke@pubpolicy.gatech.edu

Example: The Global Development Capstone enables students to address local and global issues aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students taking this course are all Global Development minors, and their research focused on food insecurity and food deserts, studying menstrual stigma, addressing gender equity in makerspaces in India, and mitigating the impact of cow waste. Read more about the winning projects here.

Contact: Neha Kumar, Associate Professor, College of Computing, neha.kumar@gatech.edu

College of Computing

Fall CS Junior Capstone Design
This year-long course is designed for teams of CS students to use their computing skills to tackle real-world challenges. Each team works with a client from campus, the private sector, or the local community to find computing solutions to existing societal challenges.

Example: Thanks to a team of Georgia Tech computer science majors, volunteering to help Plantlanta, a local nonprofit that promotes food and environmental justice in urban communities, may soon be a lot easier. The four students developed web and mobile apps to encourage people to volunteer for Plantlanta projects. Read more about their winning project here.

Contact: Amanda Girard, Computer Science Junior Design Capstone Course Coordinator, amanda.girard@cc.gatech.edu

College of Engineering

Senior students in the College of Engineering are required to take a Senior Design Capstone course in which students work together to design products or tackle real-world problems.

School of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Example: Multimodal Ferst Drive Still Design Group
Still Design Group's project focused on improving the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians traversing Ferst Drive by redesigning the corridor. The study area was from 5th Street Bridge to Regents Drive along Ferst Drive. Still Design Group worked with with Georgia Tech’s Office of Capital Planning and Space Management to determine safety metrics to compare the current split bicycle conditions with the proposed cycle track, and to propose relevant intersection re-designs and high-level roadway design changes along the corridor.

Example: MARTA Five Points Station Redesign
Redesigning MARTA's Five Points Station in Downtown Atlanta to integrate it seamlessly with the urban, pedestrian network.

Example: Vakaa Design
Team Vakaa Design combined transportation and structural engineering to create a possible route for the lanes for a crucial stretch of highway where I-285 and I-75 meet in Cobb County.

Contact: Kari Watkins, Associate Professor, Civil & Environmental Engineering, kari.watkins@ce.gatech.edu
School of Industrial & Systems Engineering
Team MARTA
This Senior Design team worked with MARTA to provide greater visibility into how patrons utilize the transit system. First, it designed a trip-chaining algorithm to extract the origin-destination pairs of patrons. Then, it performed a data envelopment analysis to identify relative bus route efficiency, revealing how routes connect riders. Finally, it designed a machine-learning algorithm to predict ridership with census data and current resource allocation. Combining these capabilities, the team’s Origin-Destination-Transfer (ODX) tool provides MARTA with the power to plan for the More MARTA initiative.

Contact: Pascal Van Hentenryck, Assoc Chair-Academic Industrial & Systems Engr, pascal.vanhentenryck@isye.gatech.edu


Boys and Girls Club Transportation Optimization
Given their current resources, BGCMA is struggling to maintain their system that transport kids from schools to clubs. Our project optimizes their current transportation network without adding resources with the goal of saving time and money, while also balancing club utilization levels.

Contact: Dawn Strickland, Senior Academic Professional Industrial & Systems Engr, dawn.strickland@gatech.edu
School of Electrical & Computer Engineering
ECE Capstone Design Brochure

Example: Backup Key Generation for Encrypted Website Data

Winner of the 2019 Capstone Expo ECE Disciplinary Award, this project hoped to bridge the gap between the two major approaches to handling user data today, providing both the security of fully encrypting user data to protect it from data breaches and other cyberattacks while still allowing users to recover access to the data if they forget their password.

Contact: Etta J. Pittman, Director of Corporate Development, etta.pittman@ece.gatech.edu
School of Mechanical Engineering
Example: Smart Water Management System Via Connected Manifold
Ferguson Ventures has identified a growing trend to switch to central manifolds that is stimulated by insurance discounts, individual outlet control, and improvements in piping material. Our team designed a smart water manifold that fills this niche and is capable of monitoring individual water outlet usage, detecting leaks and bursts, and enabling the homeowner to shut off individual water outlets remotely through a mobile app.

Example: AGCO Corporation
AGCO leveraged the Capstone Design program, sponsoring two participating Capstone teams, in order to explore creative solutions for two sensitive issues faced by their customers in the tractor market. With $7.5B annual sales in the past year and 20,000 employees worldwide, AGCO’s R&D Department focuses on agricultural innovations.

Contact: Amit S. Jariwala, Director of Design & Innovation, amit.jariwala@gatech.edu.
School of Aerospace Engineering
Example: Thin Haul Air Taxi Design-FlyRight
FlyRight, the winner of the best engineering project at the Fall 2019 GT Capstone Expo, is a thin haul air taxi that will be used for more convenient transportation for up to 6 passengers within a smaller vicinity than aircraft services traditionally are. FlyRight is focusing on maximizing passenger comfort and safety on thin haul routes while minimizing operational costs.

Contact: Carl C. Johnson, Research Engineer I, Aerospace Systems Design Lab, cj124@mail.gatech.edu

General Groups

Civic Engagement
Georgia Tech students take great pride in the Institute’s motto, “Progress and Service.” Opportunities exist across the Institute for students to engage with the strategic plan’s charge “to improve the human condition in Georgia, the United States, and around the globe.” Civic engagement at Georgia Tech engages with communities on a local, national, and global scale.

Example: Alternative Service Breaks provide a meaningful way for students and staff to engage in a group oriented, immersion community service experience and to learn about service issues such as affordable housing, early childhood education, disaster relief, hunger and homelessness, and sustainable development. Key tenants of an ASB trip include meaningful community service, intentional group reflection, and personal leadership development.

Contact: Sarah Stromenger, Director for Civic Engagement, sarah.strohmenger@studentlife.gatech.edu
Serve, Learn, Sustain
Serve-Learn-Sustain is an Institutional effort to equip Georgia Tech students to learn and serve around the theme “creating sustainable communities” through engagement with content and context.

Example: Innovating for Social Impact
This experiential program, offered in partnership with The Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship in the Scheller College of Business, introduces students to social innovation as a tool for social impact, with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, grassroots innovation, and systems change. The program has three immersive requirements: Engage, Learn, and Dive. In the Dive portion, students spend one semester doing a deep dive into the problem-and-solutions space of a sustainable communities challenge.

Contact: Kristina Chatfield, Program & Operations Manager, kchatfield30@gatech.edu
VIP Program
VIP is an undergraduate research initiative in which students work on multidisciplinary teams led by faculty, contributing to their research, innovation, and/or design efforts. Students can participate for multiple semesters/years, providing deeper learning experiences and leadership opportunities. The long-term nature of VIP creates an environment of mentorship, with faculty and graduate students mentoring teams, experienced students mentoring new members, and students moving into leadership roles as others graduate.

Industry Brochure: Read more here.

Contact: Ed Coyle, Professor; Director, Arbutus Center for the Integration of Research and Education; John B. Peatman Distinguished Professor; Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, ejc@gatech.edu
Capstone Expo
The Capstone Design Expo is one of the largest student design expos in the U.S. It is a showcase of Georgia Tech’s graduating seniors as they present their innovative projects designed and built during the Capstone Design Course. Students work in teams to solve either an industry problem, develop innovative tools to assist researchers or work on their own entrepreneurial idea.

Past expos have witnessed projects which have yielded significant results for our industry sponsors, saving some of them upwards of millions of dollars in research and development costs. The networking experience for students gives them the opportunity to make a lasting first impression on potential employers, while others have even walked away with an invitation to come and visit a potential employment opportunity with some of our sponsors. View projects from past expos here.

Contact: Nichelle Compton, Capstone Design Expo Coordinator, expo@capstone.gatech.edu