Project to promote greener cities wins global student challenge

Project Step City logo
06 May 2015 14:27:48.970
A vision for the future in which motorists are persuaded to leave their cars behind and build greener cities one footstep at a time has picked up the top prize in a global competition for students hosted by The University of Nottingham.

Project Step City, devised by a team of students at the University of New South Wales, Australia, would pit pedestrian footfall against volume of traffic in a competition designed to reduce traffic congestion in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD).

The concept was awarded first place in the Universitas 21 Global Ingenuity Challenge 2015, which aimed to test the originality and practicality of students by asking them to find innovative solutions to one of the world’s most pressing problems: how do we move people around cities?
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The challenge is facilitated through Ingenuity Online, an online creative problem solving tool developed by academics at Nottingham University Business School’s Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Professor Simon Mosey, Director of the Haydn Green Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said: “It has been a real privilege working with enthusiastic students around the world as they used their ingenuity to address a seemingly impossible problem. The imagination they displayed to show us how cities can be better places to live and work is amazing to behold.”

Nine teams of students from seven countries entered the challenge by preparing a three-minute video explaining and promoting their solution, which was judged according to six criteria: quality of pitch; novelty of solution; practicality of solution; scalability of solution; return on investment; and engagement with the process.

The most prevalent form of transport in Sydney CBD is by foot, yet its roads clogged with traffic congestion make it difficult for residents, shoppers, tourists and workers to traverse its streets on foot.

The team of five University of New South Wales students, who each received a prize of US$1,000, came up with the idea for Project Step City, which would harness the power of city pedestrians and mobile technologies to prove that Sydney CBD could become a more vibrant and safer district for all pedestrians.

Amazing talent

The month-long competition would aim to transform the CBD into a mainly pedestrianised zone by asking people to get out of their cars and track their journeys on foot with the use of a smart phone app. The Step City app would geo-locate people’s movements around the city and use a pedometer function to record how many steps have been walked.

In the heart of the district a giant progress bar would be installed showing how much pedestrian power has been generated versus traffic in the district – and serving as a visual encouragement to leave the car at home. Along the way, the competition would also offer some fun challenges and rewards to participants.

The idea could be rolled out to other cities around the globe to reduce congestion and make them safer and cleaner places for pedestrians to enjoy.

The People’s Choice award, judged by all the participants of this year’s challenge, was another Australian success story. The University of Queensland team’s concept is aimed at tackling peak time inner city traffic congestion, based on the idea of introducing a new transport system called POD (personalised optimal delivery system). The would feature small transport tubes, self-powered by solar panels, moving along a rail closed loop rail system high above the city below.

Jane Usherwood, Secretary General at Universitas 21 said: “The Global Ingenuity Challenge gives students the opportunity to apply a multitude of skills required for collaborative working in real-world situations.  The quality of the work from the participants in this inaugural U21 GI Challenge competition was breath-taking and we applaud the team from UNSW Australia, and indeed all the competing teams, for the creative yet practical ways in which they approached this challenge."

Other entries came from students at the universities of Auckland, Fudan, Glasgow and University College Dublin, as well as teams from The University of Nottingham’s campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia.

Frank Coton, Academic Lead for the Universitas 21 Student Experience Cluster said: “The quality of entries was just outstanding. It reaffirmed for me the amazing talent that exists within the U21 student body.”

More information about the Universitas 21 Global Ingenuity Challenge is available online.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with campuses in China and Malaysia modelled on a headquarters that is among the most attractive in Britain’ (Times Good University Guide 2014). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Research Project of the Year’ at the THE Awards 2014. It is ranked in the world’s top one per cent of universities by the QS World University Rankings, and 8th in the UK by research power according to REF 2014.

The University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is holding events throughout 2015 to celebrate 15 years as a pioneer of transnational education. Based in Semenyih, UNMC was established as the UK's first overseas campus in Malaysia and one of the first world-wide.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

Story credits

More information is available from Kelly Cookson, Local Enterprise Officer at Nottingham University Business School on +44 (0)115 846 6860,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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