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New student organization brings Smart Columbus initiative to campus

As researchers, local businesses and citizens of Columbus prepare to improve transportation and sustainability through the Smart Columbus program, Danny Freudiger, graduate student studying mechanical engineering at The Ohio State University, hopes to bring similar changes to the university. Freudiger is leading a new student organization called the Smart Campus Organization, which will partner with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) and Ohio State to “engage in internal campus projects, use campus as a test bed for industry sponsored projects, and collaborate with the Smart Columbus initiative through the blending of students from diverse academic backgrounds.”

Smart campus membersMembers of the Smart Campus Organization hope to make students feel connected to the campus and each other.

Freudiger became interested in the Smart Columbus project and the Smart Cities concept in January of this year. Columbus won the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart Cities Challenge in June 2016, and in its grant proposal, the city offered a series of transportation solutions, from connected vehicles and smart mobility hubs to common payment methods and LED street lights that also provide wireless internet. Freudiger worked with Maryn Weimer, senior associate director of CAR, to bring students and CAR together to solve similar connectivity and mobility problems on campus. “From my perspective,” Freudiger explained, “leading a group of students through a student organization seemed like the best way to get them involved in the Smart Cities concept. Over the summer, I started putting together a group of students to form the Smart Campus Organization.”

Current members are a collection of undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of backgrounds. While some students are involved in research at CAR, others are from academic areas like economics and environmental engineering. Students interested in joining the Smart Campus Organization should also enjoy collaborating with others to create concrete, multi-disciplinary solutions.

“The main thing we look for in a new student,” Freudiger disclosed, “is the ability take off their ‘blinders’ and look at the big picture. I think too often students have the tendency to keep their head down and only focus on their particular research area. The beauty of building a smart campus is that it encompasses so many different academic areas. The ability of our students to visualize how all these diverse pieces fit together for the betterment of the university is crucial to the success of the organization.”

The group is currently in the process of becoming an official student organization, but Freudiger shared that their goals for this first year include working on a couple projects to build a portfolio, recruiting new students, and working towards becoming a self-sustaining organization. “Most of our projects will probably be focused on our own campus, but we want there to be significant collaboration between our student organization and the City of Columbus,” said Freudiger. “Ohio State’s campus really is the heart of this city, so it only makes sense that we work together with city officials for the betterment of our community.”

“My hope is that this organization will engage students from different academic backgrounds and teach them how to work together to achieve a common goal. That goal is the improvement of campus life here at Ohio State,” Freudiger stated. “We want to use data analytics and technological advancements to improve university services. Whether those improvements are in the field of mobility or connectivity, we want students to feel as though they are connected to the campus and to each other.”

If you're interested in learning more about the group or becoming involved with the Smart Campus Organization, contact Danny Freudiger at freudiger.1@osu.edu.