OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A group of UNO students hope to soon have "smart" technology in place around Aksarben Village. It would help people easily find the nearest parking spot, bike rack, or bus stop.
All semester the students have worked with the City Planning Department and Metropolitan Area Planning Agency to turn Aksarben Village into a smart city test bed. “User experience design is kind of a way of solving problems that help people achieve their goals,” said Christine Toh, Assistant Professor in IT and Innovation at UNO.
Students were tasked with coming up with practical solutions for the city using technology. Solutions to problems such as mobility within the city. "Technology is not this abstract thing that you're just programming, you're actually, you have the power to change your communities and your world and I think that's a really powerful thing to teach students,” said Toh.
To be considered a smart city test bed, it needs to use technology that involves both the community and government. “We had so many pie in the sky ideas it was kind of hard to get ourselves grounded into what the design space really should look like,” said User Experience Design UNO student, Holly Rosser.
The students landed on "smart kiosks" that would be placed around Aksarben Village. They would allow users to find things like the nearest parking spot, restaurant menu items, and times and locations of events. “You have to consider so much into depth and details until you make sure that what you're designing or what you're coming up with is inclusive for all ages,” said User Experience Design UNO student, Farahe Mohamda Fzali.
A project like this takes the students out of the classroom. “The work that we do is everywhere, it's in our business community, it's in our non-profit community, when we go through neighborhoods we can see our work in the community every day,” said Kristen Case, Service Learning Community liaison. “We put a lot of thought and a lot of effort into what would be the best instrument for Aksarben Village and if that was actually implemented we would be super excited,” said Rosser.
For the past few months the students conducted surveys to figure out what people most wanted to see. They hope the kiosks they designed will soon be found throughout Aksarben Village.