Rebekah Costello, Sarah Edwards, Timothy Kassis - MIT NEET Living Machines

About the Climate & Sustainability Systems threadIt offers three tracks: Digital Cities, Energy Transition, and Materials Machines

The Climate & Sustainability Systems thread provides training needed for innovating the materials, devices, processes, and networked systems to support the urgent and necessary transition towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable planet. The thread will emphasize de-carbonization across our energy, industrial, transportation and urban systems, while maintaining awareness of the potential for unintended consequences in shifting the burden to other social, economic and environmental metrics of sustainability. 

About the Digital Cities track

Digital Cities (DC) emphasizes the development of fundamental skills in urban planning and policy including ethics, justice, and engagement; statistics, data science, and geospatial analysis and visualization; and computational thinking, simulation, and user experience.

This thread prepares you to build technology that serves the public good and to design and implement public interest technology or civic technology specialized for the urban environment. You will prepare to plan and build the cities of the future by immersing in the emerging intersections of computer science and urban planning. 

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Contextualize Digital Technology in Urban Planning and Policy

Cities involve a complex interaction between humans, machines, and the urban environment. With a variety of lectures and talks offered by DUSP, you will learn how to identify communities in need, formulate problem statements, build computational tools, and develop urban policy and interventions with and on behalf of clients.

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Develop Skills in Civic Technology Projects

Three computational public interest technology projects, gradually expanding in complexity and impact. Projects will impact the MIT community, or a partner client or city, or the public at large.

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Build Practical Computational Tools

You will build practical computational tools that strive to help everyone equitably. This can mean building apps that help people navigate transportation systems—technologies like Uber or Waze. You may also develop data-driven models to predict risks that cities face due to climate change. 

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Technology that Serves the Public Good

Civic technology is just what it sounds like: technology that serves the public good.


In order to receive the NEET Climate & Sustainability Systems: Digital Cities certificate from the School of Engineering, you need to complete the following requirements. You do not need to follow a strict sequence and will receive a certificate as long as you complete all subjects.

Two Foundation Subjects

11.001 Intro to Urban Design and Development, (12 units, HASS-H) L. Vale6.0001/6.0002 Intro to Programming (12 units, REST)

Three Project-based Subjects

11.007 Urban and Environmental Technology Implementation Lab (12 units) D. Hsu11.154 Big Data, Visualization, and Society (12 units, HASS-S) S. Williams11.138 Crowdsourced City: Civic Tech Prototyping (12 units, HASS-S) C. D'Ignazio

Three CSS Seminars (Offered every semester)

Offered as 22.003/3.006 in Fall 2021 (3 units) N. Melenbrink

Suggested Electives (not required)

11.188  Urban Planning & Social Science Lab (12 units)6.009   Fundamentals of Programming (12 units)11.155J Data and Society (HASS-S, 12 units)11. 944. Applied Urban Analytics (12 units)11.S187 Applied Data Science for Cities (6 units)11.S01 Urban Science for Public Good – Gender and Racial Equity in AI (3 units)11.523 Spatial Database (6 units)11. 524 Spatial Statistics Workshop (6 units)

CSS-DC and Course 11-6

Course 11-6 majors may be able to count their NEET CSS-DC subjects toward their major requirements. 11-6 majors should meet with their major advisor to plan how NEET DC can work with their major.

CSS-DC and All Other Majors

Three of the required CSS-DC subjects will count toward your HASS GIR (11.001, 11.154, 11.138). 6.0001/6.0002, another CSS-DC requirement, counts as a REST, and also is required or a pre-req for many majors. Therefore, for many students, pursuing a certificate in CSS-DC will require only one extra class (11.007) and three 3-unit seminars beyond your major and GIR.
Your are welcome to contact NEET Academic Administrator Becky Shepardson ude.tim%40pehsb if you would like help working on a personalized roadmap for NEET DC.

CSS-DC Course Petition Process

If you have a project-based UROP, we may accept as a substitute for a NEET course. You will have to submit your UROP proposal to the urban science committee for approval. If you cannot take a subject due to course conflicts and won’t be able to swap with other subjects, you can make up the NEET requirement next year. 

Example Projects

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Urban Environmental Sensing 

Create technology that has an impact on the MIT Community. This can be deploying environmental sensors in campus, or creating an app that makes your dormitory more connected.
11.007 Urban and Environmental Technology Implementation Lab, D. Hsu

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Big Data, Visualization, and Society

Build advanced computational public interest technology as part of a complex real-world project that engages the public at large and involve multiple stakeholders, institutions, and communication mediums.
11.154 Big Data, Visualization, and Society, S. Williams

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Social Media, Technology and Planning Processes

How do we develop (automated, crowdsourced, or manual) ways of auditing commemorative place names for gender and race equity in specific cities?
11.S196 Crowdsourced City: Civic Tech Prototyping Class, C. D'Ignazio


These are a series of 12-unit unrestricted elective classes that CSS-DC scholars take throughout the three-year program. All the classes are accompanied by seminars and talks hosting guest speakers from industry, academia and government addressing a variety of issues under the thread theme.

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11.007 Urban and Environmental Technology Implementation Lab

D. Hsu
Real-world clients and environmental problems form the basis of a project in which teams of students develop strategies for analysis and implementation of new sensor technology within cities. Working closely with a partner or client based on the MIT campus or in Cambridge, students assess the environmental problem, implement prototypes, and recommend promising solutions to the client for implementation. Equipment and working space provided.

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11.154 Big Data, Visualization, and Society

S. Williams
Studies data visualization as a way for architects, planners and policy experts to communicate with the public. Develops technical skills to work with big data to answer or expose urban issues, which include cleaning and aggregating data in python, D3, and other web-based visualization software, and accessing APIs to download data. Students work with a big data set in a particular urban area and use the data to answer a policy question. Students taking graduate version complete additional assignments.

Ronit Langer - MIT NEET Living Machines

11.S196 Crowdsourced City: Civic Tech Prototyping Class

C. D'Ignazio
Investigates the use of social media and digital technologies for planning and advocacy by working with actual planning and advocacy organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate prototype digital tools. Students use the development of their digital tools as a way to investigate new media technologies that can be used for planning.


Prof. Linda Griffith - MIT NEET Living Machines

Prof. David Hsu

NEET Faculty Lead

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Prof. Linda Griffith - MIT NEET Living Machines

Cong Cong

Lecturer of Urban Science and Planning

Department of Urban Studies and Planning

Scholars Leadership Team


Amelia Dogan

DC Student Council

Urban Studies and PlanningClass of 2023


  • Who is eligible for the CSS-Digital Cities thread?

    The Digital Cities thread is open to all majors. For some majors we may need to work out the Digital Cities roadmap on a case-by-case basis. Students planning on enrolling in the urban studies with computer science (11-6) degree program are especially welcome to join this thread; they may have to take few extra subjects, if any, to satisfy the requirements. 

  • How many students are you planning to take?

    New enrollments will be capped at 30 students/year.

  • Will I get a certificate?

    Yes, upon completing your SB degree you will also gain a NEET Certificate in Digital Cities from the School of Engineering.

  • What benefits may I expect from being in CSS-Digital Cities?

    The thread emphasizes interdisciplinary team-work, research output and individual mentoring. As such, you will benefit from exposure to a variety of interesting work being carried out by research labs from across all participating majors.

  • What projects will I be working on in the CSS-Digital Cities thread?

    Each year you will take the 12-unit project-centered Digital Cities class (11.007/ 11.S196/ 11.154). The DC thread emphasizes novel research output as a fundamental part of the projects. You will complete project classes in sophomore, junior, and senior years. Projects are 12-unit subjects each year (36 units total). 
    While the data and urbanism theme remains the same, the projects might vary depending on the cohort year, but generally:
    11.007: You will create technology that has an impact on the MIT Community. This can be deploying environmental sensors in campus, or creating an app that makes your dormitory more connected.
    11.S196: You will build a computational public interest technology that engages with faculty partners, clients, cities, or sponsored research in a project that focuses on environmental impact and sustainability.
    11.154: Build advanced computational public interest technology as part of a complex real-world project that engages the public at large and involve multiple stakeholders, institutions, and communication mediums.

  • More questions?

    Contact NEET Co-lead instructor Yuan Lai, ude.tim%40ialnauy, for more information.