City Tech Students Compete in Brooklyn Borough President’s Smart Gun Design Competition

At a ceremony held at the Brooklyn Borough Hall in Downtown Brooklyn on September 18, the contributions of two teams of City Tech engineering students were recognized for their smart gun designs, which were submitted to Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams’ Smart Gun Design Competition. City Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology & Industrial Design undergraduate students Liza Chiu, Josue Bautista, Antonia Meza, and Runtao You participated in the competition with Professor Masato Nakamura as faculty advisor. In addition to City Tech’s teams, a team from Pratt also made the final round of the competition, while one of the two finalist teams of graduate students from NYU’s Tanden School of Engineering won the $1 million prize.

The goal of the Smart Gun Design Competition, announced by Adams in August 2016, was to help drive innovation in advancing smart gun technology through the creation of an identification method for preventing unauthorized users of guns from using them. Adams challenged colleges and universities from the five boroughs to submit a design that would address this goal. Reducing gun violence is an extremely important issue for Adams in no small part because of his many years as a captain in the New York Police Department (NYPD). The competition was preceded by a smart gun symposium Adams organized, which brought together experts from all over the country on gun violence.

“Our students understand that designing a new smart gun system could have a huge impact, and in order to solve this real-world issue, they successfully utilized hands-on skills they learned in classrooms and labs. This competition was a great opportunity for them to conduct research and development through individual work and teamwork,” said Professor Nakamura, “Because we cannot avoid the political issues associated with smart gun design, the City Tech teams’ designs may not be applicable now. Sustainability is about using technology to improve our environment and our lives. Our goal is to use design to make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.”

l to r: Stephen Soiffer, Chiu, Meza, Nakamura, President Hotzler

Team Energy and Environmental Simulation Laboratory (EESL), with City Tech students Josue Bautista, Liza Chiu, Antonio Meza, and Runtao (Ryan) You, introduced a smart gun design using a sensor equipped system and computer programming that focuses on preventing accidental deaths and suicide by gun, since they account for the majority of deaths by gun in the United States.

Team EESL developed a system applying customizable gesture combinations for identifying users by using a 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer (compass), and global positioning system (GPS). In addition, a sonar sensor, detecting an object in an extremely close range, was equipped in order to avoid self-shooting or children’s accidental use. Using this gesture-detecting system, firearm users can customize gesture combinations that unlock a gun during an authorization process. This smart gun system emits an encrypted signal including time, location, and 3-dimensional direction of the gun muzzle when the trigger is pulled. The signal with the data will be transferred through a cellular network or a Wi-Fi connection, and eventually stored to a server.

Team PewPew, with City Tech students Josue Bautista and Liza Chiu, introduced a smart gun with technology built into the grip. The three main features are: 1) safety and training support—multi-layered grips with additive manufactured time-released molding materials to encourage increased firearm handling, build situational training experience, and enforce minimum training hours for uniformed law enforcement; 2) identity authorization—unique grip biometrics to unlock electromechanical lock, and increased identity accuracy with additional pattern recognition data; and 3) theft prevention—one gun, one grip signature, as well as an integrated GPS.

This accumulated gunfire data will be analyzed using machine learning, data science, and behavioral science. The analyzed gunfire data accumulated from each smart gun could be possibly predictive of users’ behaviors, preventing unnecessary gun use and reducing potential gun violence.

“I’m inspired by circular design, which merges sustainability with design, and considers the system’s entire life cycle. As engineers, we have a responsibility to consider the consequences of our designs. None of us wanted to design just a gun, but it was an interesting opportunity to address the issues behind gun violence. In this case, we wanted to promote responsible gun ownership and address the fact that there is a lack of training and firearm handling required of those who own weapons that have the potential to harm others,” said Liza Chiu.

“Looking back over the past year, I realize how much I enjoyed working with my teammates, despite the challenges of our project. To top it off, our team made it to the finals! It was a great honor to present our smart gun idea to the NYPD and the Borough President. I’m grateful to the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, City Tech, my professors, technicians, and each of my teammates,” said Runtao You.

“This project required us to use our skills in engineering to design a smart gun, and it was quite a challenge since smart gun technology receives a lot of resistance from some groups. But gun safety is something that should be addressed and hopefully improved upon over time. I got to work with great mentors such as Professor Nakamura, and George Kiezik from the Physics Department, as well as a great team of fellow students who have become close friends. One of the best parts of this competition was competing with graduate students from NYU and Pratt. It was a fun experience that gave us the opportunity to use our minds and skills while working on a project that can benefit others,” said Josue Bautista.

Based on this smart gun research, Professor Nakamura and his students have established a new research initiative called CUNY Smart City Observatory (SMO), for developing and applying smart technology that can be transformed into a smart city in a more sustainable way. The SMO, for instance, will acquire and analyze data from smart guns and sensors in New York City, as well as observe and documents traffic patterns on the Brooklyn Bridge from City Tech’s Voorhees Building, monitor urban air and water quality, and develop new fashion technologies that synchronize people and local events in a smart city.