June 23, 2021

UNC’s Morehead-Cain Scholars study Smart City innovation in Chattanooga

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Six Morehead-Cain Scholars from UNC Chapel Hill are working with The Enterprise Center this summer to understand the impact of Smart City technologies on life in Chattanooga. The students are looking at the intersection of Smart City investments and social determinants of health — or how technology infrastructure in the places people live, work, and play can impact their health and quality of life. Because of EPB’s advanced smart grid infrastructure and community-wide fiber optic network, Chattanooga has become a national leader in field-testing new Smart City technologies. These UNC students will add to the expanding body of knowledge about how exactly Smart City innovation is affecting people’s lives.

The Morehead-Cain Scholarship gives the awarded students fully-funded work, travel, and research experiences throughout their college career that directly relate to their majors. We sat down with each of these students to talk about their backgrounds and how it relates to the work they are doing in Chattanooga this summer.

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Nina Fisher Hometown: Guelph Ontario, Canada. Major: Public Health Management. Minor: Business administration and psychology

Nina feels that her major in public health has given her a unique perspective into their research topic, as public health is not something that is usually a main focus of tech innovation or something at the forefront of people’s minds when they think of a “smart city.” She hopes that this summer will teach her to look at groups of people as a whole, but not lose sight of them as individuals. She also wants to learn more about how public health relates to communities and the best strategies to combat related issues.

What is a random thing that stood out to you about the city of Chattanooga when you arrived?

The number of events this city has! I’ve loved going to Nightfall, the local markets, the different sports games. There is just so much to do in Chattanooga, and I didn’t expect that before coming here.

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Matthew Deo Hometown: Toronto, Canada. Double Major: Business Administration and Economics.

Matthew says that as a student studying business, he has a heightened interest in Chattanooga’s culture of entrepreneurship and support for small businesses. Although Matthew has seen this culture in other large cities, he said he is especially intrigued about what gives Chattanooga, a mid-sized city, a similar culture. Matthew is interested in how Smart City investments can improve equity, and he is especially interested in The Enterprise Center’s work in closing the digital divide.

What is one thing you want to see/do in Chattanooga this summer before you leave? I want to observe the natural environment of Chattanooga and visit the Rock City Gardens, as well as the Ruby Falls. The city is fortunate to have such beautiful surroundings.

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Molly Dorgan Hometown: Waynesville, NC. Major: Sociology Minor: Statistics

Molly feels that as a sociology major, she has a unique perspective on how technology can be used in a community, as she came into this summer with a very people-centered mindset. She says a lot of people lose sight of the purpose of tech and innovation, which is to progress a city as a whole, and not leave segments of the population behind. She hopes to learn more about the behind-the-scenes details of what it takes for a city to function.

What is one thing you want to see/do in Chattanooga this summer before you leave?

I really want to hike Lookout and take The Incline down the mountain. I feel like it’s a Chattanooga staple, and I don’t want to leave without doing it!

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Emerson Houser Hometown: Mooresville, NC Double major: Business Administration and Political Science

Emerson is particularly interested in the issues and challenges that Chattanooga faces from a policy and organizational level. Emerson’s interest in smart city innovation comes from his desire to understand how data and the internet can make small, yet very impactful, differences in the everyday lives of people, particularly in safety and public transportation.

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Eliam Mussie Hometown: Charlotte, NC Double major: Public Health Entrepreneurship and Public Health Management

Eliam is most interested in looking at the disparities in public health and understanding how smart tech advances would allow us to see those more clearly. This summer he is hoping to gain a deeper grasp on how using tech on a micro or macro level can impact multiple aspects of life, specifically education, health, and government. Smart tech is intriguing to Eliam because of how something so seemingly little can make such a big difference in people’s lives; many of us take high-speed internet for granted, however, the presence or absence of it can completely change a person’s day-to-day life and ability to connect.

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Emily Schmidt Hometown: Greenville, NC Double Major: Public Policy and Journalism.

Emily’s focus is at the intersection of storytelling and community building, specifically how Smart City work has been communicated to different populations. She is excited to continue meeting individuals from various organizations that are building off of Chattanooga’s Smart City work. During the time Emily has already been here, she has realized that being a Smart City requires data-driven collaboration and communication, both of which must work together to support the people who call Chattanooga home.

We are so excited to have these talented students with us this summer and we hope they enjoy their time in Chattanooga!