Digital Cities

What is it?

In the Digital Cities thread, students prepare to plan and build the cities of the future by immersing them in the emerging intersections of computer science and urban planning.

What will I learn?

Digital Cities 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. Students 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.

Students will complete three civic technology projects that gradually expand their sphere of impact, working with the MIT community as sophomores, then partner clients as juniors, and finally, as seniors, with the public at large. Civic technology is just what it sounds like: technology that serves the public good.

What is this thread’s “new machine and system?”

This thread prepares students to build technology that serves the public good and to design and implement public interest technology or civic technology specialized for the urban environment. Students 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. Students may also develop data-driven models to predict risks that cities face due to climate change. Students deploy public interest technology to interface with society, whether that means designing a publicly accessible exhibit or a specialized tool for decision-makers.

Who do I talk to?

For more information about the Digital Cities thread, please contact:

  • Sarah Williams, Faculty lead and Associate Professor of Technology and Urban Planning:
  • Yuan Lai, Co-lead, Lecturer, Department of Urban Studies and Planning:
  • David Hsu, associate professor of urban and environmental planning:
  • Ceasar McDowell, Professor of the Practice of Civic Design:
  • Eric Huntley, Lecturer of Urban Science and Planning:
  • Eran Ben-Joseph, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and Head, Department of Urban Studies and Planning:
  • Andres Sevtsuk, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning:
NEET Students


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. Core requirements, sample subject selections, and suggested electives are listed below, but we encourage interested students to contact Ira Winder, technical instructor (11-6) at or Professor Sarah Williams at for class selection and advising.

Core requirements for this thread include projects, seminars, and foundation subjects.


Students will do three computational public-interest  technology projects that gradually expand their sphere of impact, working with the MIT community as sophomores, then with a partner client or  city as juniors, and finally, as seniors, with the public at large.

  • Sophomore Spring: Have an impact on the MIT Community. This can mean making an app that makes a dormitory more connected, or building a computer simulation of the Met Warehouse redevelopment on Vassar St. (11.007, 12 units)
  • Junior Spring: Engage with faculty partners, clients, cities, or sponsored research in a project that focuses on environmental impact and sustainability. (Subject TBA, 12 units)
  • Senior Spring: A complex real-world project that engages the public at large and involves multiple stakeholders, institutions, and communication mediums. (Subject TBA, 12 units)

Projects and seminars will be assigned subject numbers for which you must register. Contact NEET technical instructor Ira Winder,, for more information.


  • Sophomore Fall: Review case studies, problem formulation and project implementation. (11.S195, 3 Units)
  • Junior Fall: Students attend workshops and lecture to learn reflective practice techniques. (3 Units)
  • Senior Fall: Students will work on a hands-on project, yet to be determined. (3 Units)

Foundation Subjects

Sample Roadmaps

Want to go further?

Some suggested electives (these are not required, and are not part of the core requirements for this thread):

Please note: both core requirements and suggested electives overlap with the Course 11-6 degree requirements for a Bachelor of Science in Urban Science and Planning with Computer Science. Also, please note that the classes listed above may change depending on departmental requirements.

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