Penn4C Announces Awardees for Community-led Partnership Grant


Sea of multi-cultural hands indicating teamwork

The Penn Community Collaboratory for Co-Creation (Penn4C), an initiative led jointly by the Welcome to Penn Nursing ( (Penn Nursing) and the School of Engineering and Applied Science (Penn Engineering), has awarded funding to five new research projects that address social justice through designing and implementing solutions to improve health, well-being and safety. In addition to the involvement of Penn faculty and students, the projects are required to have active and equitable representation of the community in which the project will be completed.

Penn4C is based on the recognition that technological solutions should be designed with active engagement of marginalized communities with the explicit goal to challenge rather than reproduce or exacerbate structural inequalities as technology often does. The projects funded this year address a variety of community needs ranging from high temperatures in so-called urban “heat islands” to combining science education with physical exercise in high schools.

“This is a unique opportunity for us to engage communities to actively co-design innovative solutions that truly meet the needs of those who have the lived experience,” says George Demiris, Associate Dean for Research and Innovation at Penn Nursing. Demiris is also the Mary Alice Bennett University Professor and Co-director of Penn4C.

“Penn4C gets engineers actively involved in ways that make a real impact as projects are driven by the community,” adds Mark Yim, Asa Whitney Professor of Mechanical Engineering in Penn Engineering, Director of the GRASP Lab and Co-Director of Penn4C.

The projects funded by Penn4C in 2024 include:

North10 Heat Islands

Principal investigators Sara Jacoby, Associate Professor (Penn Nursing), and Paulo Arratia, Professor (Penn Engineering); with Dorit Aviv, Assistant Professor (Weitzman School of Design); and community lead Nikki Bagby, Chief External Affairs Officer (North10 Philadelphia)

This project aims to address the problem of urban heat stress in the Hunting Park / East Tioga area of Philadelphia. The work will include the development and construction of a prototype for a cooling shelter that can be integrated into local bus stops in areas that people use regularly.

Smoothie Bike Project

Principal investigators Monique Dowd, Advanced Senior Lecturer (Penn Nursing) and Dustyn Roberts, Practice Associate Professor (Penn Engineering); with community lead Daniel Merin, Board Chairperson (Rebel Ventures)

The Smoothie Bike Project is a collaboration that engages Penn students, local high school students, and Netter Center staff in re-purposing used bikes and used blenders into educational and joyful kid-powered smoothie making machines.

Digital Healing

Co-Creating Youth Digital Creative Arts Space for Community Wellbeing Principal Investigators Siva Mathiyazhagan, Research Assistant Professor, (School of Social Policy & Practice), Seul Ki Choi, Research Assistant Professor (Penn Nursing), and Sharath Chandra Guntuku, Research Assistant Professor (Penn Engineering); with community lead Andrea Ngan, Co-Director (Creative Resilient Youth)

Digital Healing is a web-based platform, which will be co-designed and co-developed as an AI-driven culturally responsive youth digital co-creative arts space for community healing in partnership with a youth-led organization called Creative Resilient Youth (CRY) in Philadelphia.

Re-Imagining Childhood Asthma and Electronic Health Records: A Community-Based Approach

Principal Investigators Kenrick Cato, Professor (Penn Nursing), and Andrew Head, Assistant Professor (Penn Engineering); with community lead Sonya Sanders, Community Organizer (Philly Thrive)

Asthma is a major non-communicable disease affecting children, especially those from marginalized communities, because of limited access to information. This project will explore how medical information systems can be improved to provide better care for young, marginalized asthma patients.

The Impact of Land Care in North Tioga-East Huntington Neighborhood of Philadelphia

Principal Investigators Sara Jacoby, Associate Professor (Penn Nursing), and Devin Carroll, Lecturer (Penn Engineering); with community lead Jamese Newsome-Williams, Director of Adult Programs and Community Services (North10 Philadelphia)

The focus of this project is to create a tool to assist in removing debris to improve the wellbeing of the community and individuals in the North Tioga neighborhoods.

To learn more about these research projects, please visit The Penn Community Collaboratory for Co-Creation (Penn4C).