Academy of the Near Future: Design Your Future City

‘Design Your Future City’ Week was an exciting week-long innovation programme from March 21 – 25th for Transition Year students to explore science, technology, art and design. Through interactive workshops students investigated how to use technology to solve local problems. 

Academy of the Near Future (ANF) is a smart cities education programme developed by Smart Docklands, Dublin City Council (DCC) and CONNECT. The programme aims to bring citizens into the conversation about how technology shapes the places we live through interactive workshops and hands-on activities. In particular, the programme aims to reach groups underrepresented in the tech industry including girls and DEIS areas.

“There’s all this technology and it’s moving so fast, but we need to educate citizens about the potential of these technologies, what the risks are and how we can make the most of new tools” – Jamie Cudden, Smart City Lead

‘Design Your Future City’ Week called all Transition Year students across Ireland to identify a challenge in their local area for a chance to participate in the week. Students applied with their own creative tech solution to a local problem of importance to them. The programme did not need any previous experience in technology or coding, just enthusiasm and an open mind about creating better future cities, towns and communities! 

The main objective of ‘Design Your Future City’ Week was to allow students explore the future of cities through collaborative and playful workshops, sparking creativity and critical thinking. Students programmed their own sensors while making their own microbit ‘Pet’.  Electronics textiles and conductive thread allowed students to create their own wearable tech. Speculative design workshops and ‘Technology and Ethics’ debates allowed students to think critically, and user focused design workshops aimed to promote empathy. 

Throughout the week 21 students worked in teams, exploring problems and worked through idea generation, prototyping and development of their own smart city solution. Their ideas were presented to a panel of industry partners who were excited to hear the youth perspective.

‘An insight that I took away from the program is that others are willing to listen to our ideas— ideas from young people, even if we ourselves think it isn’t a good or practical idea.” – Youth participant

There were also multiple guest speakers and demonstrations. Students had the opportunity to walk ‘Spot the Dog’ and explore Leica Geosystems scanning software. Manna Drone Delivery also gave students a close up view and demonstration of drone technology and their trial deliveries in Balbriggan. The students also got the chance to see Google’s AirView Dublin Street View car which captures air pollution and measures greenhouse gases across the city. Guest speakers included Diane Hrisovescu who spoke about social innovation and start-up culture and Aine NiChaoindealbhain from Virgin Media Television who supported students to develop their pitches. 

‘This is an opportunity to get young people playing with all this new technology coming out, and get them excited about it. They’re really our future innovators who are going to make a difference, and really make the smart cities work for people and make all of our lives better.” – Dan Kilper, Director of CONNECT.

We’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the week and made it all possible. We’d also like to thank all the students for their active participation, creativity and collaboration.

If you have would like to find out more about Academy of the Near Future please contact Grace at

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