Aguiar looks to take MIT online urban design and planning course, ‘Beyond Smart Cities’

The Town Board will vote Wednesday on whether to pay for Supervisor Yvette Aguiar to take an online course on “how to bring together effective design, progressive public policy, and emerging technologies to build high-functioning, sustainable cities that address the urban challenges of our time.”

The course, titled “Beyond Smart Cities: Emerging Design and Technology” and offered for six weeks online by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, would cost the town $2,900, according to the resolution. Aguiar said in an interview on Friday that the course’s principles of sustainability and growth will be applicable to future large development in the town.

“We are embarking on two significant projects at Town Square and the transit development district, what we know as the train station, and we need to ensure that we have the knowledge and growth to be sustainable and whatever we build is prosperous for all our residents — and the home income levels for seniors. And that’s something that we don’t concentrate here in the East End or in Riverhead, but it’s a requirement for any building across the entire nation,” Aguiar said.

The course will “explore the ways in which disruptive technologies can dramatically improve the planning, design, and management of contemporary cities for heightened resilience,” according to MIT’s website. It focuses on “innovations such as AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and blockchain technology in the context of urban design,” the website course description says.

“This is an MIT course; they’re engineers and we’re basically dealing with the engineering component and ensuring that we build a resilient community,” Aguiar said.

Aguiar said there is an emphasis in Downtown Revitalization Initiative meetings on “Smart Growth.”

According to the American Planning Association, smart growth “supports choice and opportunity by promoting efficient and sustainable land development, incorporates redevelopment patterns that optimize prior infrastructure investments, and consumes less land that is otherwise available for agriculture, open space, natural systems, and rural lifestyles.”

“We’re talking about concentrating on healthy, prosperous communities, and to be resilient and to use the best technology and to use the best architecture,” Aguiar said.

The program is “designed for anyone who’s interested in the design and planning of cities, and is seeking ways to transform urban areas to promote a more vibrant, sustainable future,” the MIT website states. The program is also suited to engineers, designers, architects, urban planners or businesspeople interested in business opportunities in sustainability, mobility, urban design, or innovation, according to the website.

“City department heads, government innovation officers, and other government leaders interested in the potential of new technologies to improve quality of life in cities would also benefit from taking this course,” the website reads.

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