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Cornell University

Undergraduate Scholars Present About Research and Knowledge (uSPARK) 2024: Living Labs Edition

Event details: Earth Day, April 22, 2024 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM, Film Forum at the Schwartz Performing Arts Center
Hosted by the Engineering Communications Program, in collaboration with the Campus Sustainability Office
Sponsored by the Fuertes Memorial Prize in Public Speaking

We invite student teams from Cornell Engineering to participate in this semester’s Undergraduate Scholars Present About Research and Knowledge (uSPARK) competition to address the theme of Living Labs. The uSPARK competition allows student teams to hone their presentation skills with a supportive structure that encourages participants to explore a topic related to the Living Labs theme.

What is a Living Lab?

A living lab is not one room or one building. Using the Cornell campus as a Living Laboratory means harnessing the resources of our entire campus and community to encourage inspiration and innovation for scalable sustainability solutions to address the challenges in the built, living, and social environment.

Join us in Promoting or Pitching a Living Lab Project!

Living Labs harness Cornell’s campus to create sustainability solutions. Living Labs connect different disciplines to real-world sustainability projects, but positive change is limited without increasing awareness among Cornell Engineering students. Living Labs is not currently well-understood by the student body, so contextualizing it in terms of previous and current work can increase campus-wide sustainability efforts.

Apply Here

Fill out the Google Form application to be considered for participation. See additional details in the Application & Timeline section below.

Presentation Categories & Prizes

Engineering student teams are welcome to present for up to 5 minutes in one of two categories. These suggested prompts are intended to help teams brainstorm a topic for a Living Labs themed uSPARK presentation. We encourage other ideas as well, so long as they fit under the umbrella of these two categories.

Category 1: Propose a Living Lab Project

$2,000 prize for 1 team to kickstart or continue a Living Lab project

  • What would be a process to become an officially recognized Living Lab project and how can Cornell Engineering create a blueprint for that process?
  • Explore how you can develop a sustainable practice via a Living Lab on campus to improve the Cornell community.
  • Design a Living Lab project that interacts with the local Ithaca community.
  • How can you incorporate your major discipline into a Living Lab project?

Category 2: Promote Awareness of Living Labs on Campus

$1,000 prize for 2 teams to pitch a strategic communication plan to promote awareness of Living Labs on campus

  • How can the Living Labs concept better reach the broader Cornell Engineering community?
  • What materials can Engineering students develop to bring more awareness to Living Lab projects on campus?
  • What specific communication strategies can you employ to help Engineering students join a Living Lab project or initiative and/or make use of campus resources?
  • What current/past projects on campus can be retroactively documented as Living Lab projects?

Additional Prizes

  • $500 audience favorite from either category
  • $250 prize to 2 teams for making it to the final round

Competition Handbook

For more information and student contacts, see this Competition Handbook.

Examples of Cornell Engineering Living Labs

Team Member Requirements

Presentations must be given by teams of undergraduate students from Cornell Engineering. A team may have some majors from another college, such as architecture, but the majority of teammates should be engineering majors.

uSPARK 2024 Application & Timeline

Interested teams should elect a teammate to fill out the Google Form application to be considered for participation.

From the pool of applicants, 6 teams will be selected and invited to attend a specialized training session. The selected teams must attend this session to advance to the final round.

The uSPARK Competition & Awards are open to all in the Cornell community to attend. Refreshments will be served.

March 1 Competition application opens to all Cornell Engineering undergraduates
March 29 Application deadline
April 10 Specialized Training Session
April 22 uSPARK Competition & Awards at the Schwartz Performing Arts Center Film Forum, 5:30 – 7:30 PM

Meet the Judges

The 2024 uSPARK competition, Living Labs edition, will be judged by members of Cornell Engineering and the Campus Sustainability Office (CSO).

Contact Information

Questions? Contact the Engineering Communications Program at