During the inaugural 2011 SISE program, few people could envision the transportation revolution that’s happening now. Societal trends and technological advances are converging, impacting the way we think about our futures and plan for the world of tomorrow. And we see these transportation systems transform before our eyes in ways that we couldn’t imagine even five years ago:

  • Hybrid vehicles and electric vehicles are “in.” 
  • Smart, driverless cars are on the horizon.
  • Next generation batteries are being tested.
  • Ride sharing is a serious transportation option.
  • Personal cars may give way to mobility as a service. 

Yet as our current transportation systems transform and integrate new technologies, there are unparalleled opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs, businesses, cities, banks, architects, and many others. Some we can anticipate, some we can’t fathom, and some that we are facing right now. What are these challenges, what do they mean for individuals and businesses, and how has this changed our collective vision of the future?

In 2017, we’ll look to the future of transportation systems. Participants will engage with experts and diverse ideas through talks and site visits to envision what the future may hold. We’ll cover several trends, including:

  • Technological Advances - the changes leading us to Autonomous Electric Vehicles
  • Emerging Mobility Trends - ride sharing/Micro-Transit and other mobility solutions
  • Infrastructure Challenges - the power grid and its interaction with electric vehicles
  • Global and Local Impacts - the overarching picture

SISE'ers will work on collaborative research projects to develop solutions to potential issues facing our transportation future, enjoy opportunities to network with alumni and Chicago-area experts, and work with youth from the YMCA Metro of Chicago Green Creation Crew.

SISE 2016: Nexus

SISE 2016 Flier

Water and energy have long been thought of, and addressed as, two separate issues. With the advent of systems thinking, life cycle assessment, and other interdisciplinary analysis strategies, this deep connection between water and energy has been widely acknowledged only recently.

This water and energy nexus, already strained because of available resources, will be further stretched in the coming decades with a growing US and world population, the need to cultivate more food for this growing population, a dwindling supply of available water resources especially in certain geographical regions, and unforeseen disasters as result of climate change. It is important for energy and sustainability-minded professionals and future decision makers to become fluent in the issues surrounding this relationship, and to work together to innovate and implement solutions to the issues facing the United States and the world this decade and in the decades to come.


The 6th annual Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy: Nexus program will:

  • explore the relationship between energy and water through systems approach, with an eye towards environmental and agricultural impacts;
  • explore the the use of water, especially in energy extraction (fracking) and generation;
  • and highlight the role of the grid in energy issues, emphasizing three specific areas: smart grid, storage for the grid, and the distribution of energy.

Across all topics, participants will examine where the United States is to date, potential paths moving forward, and obstacles and opportunities for each path. Situated on one of the largest bodies of freshwater on Earth and playing host to a large and complex grid system, Chicago will be the focal point of discussions of the nexus.

SISE 2015: Digital Rebirth

SISE 2015 Flier

Cities are the consummate intersection of people, ideas, and energy. Innovative technologies arising from this intersection have propelled civilization from its very beginnings. With digital technology we can now capture the dynamics of entire systems, from manufacturing lines to the electricity grid to the flow of people, cars, water and waste in cities. This integration allows us to visualize, analyze, and direct these systems in real time by the action of a few electrons. Digital integration and the smart control it enables are the emerging, disruptive, and probably dominant innovations of the future.

These same innovations, while offering a bright vision of the future, make plain that we’ve outgrown our current models for business, and urban and energy infrastructure, which frequently operate in fragmented, uncoordinated, and inefficient ways. Entrepreneurs, sustainability-minded individuals, and energy aficionados want to find new ways of operating that reduce energy, water, and waste while increasing quality, output, and service. Working from scratch to implement these new ideals would be simple. Revamping existing infrastructures is the more realistic and challenging option, and presents a unique opportunity for innovation in all sectors.

We need future innovators and decision-makers on board to embrace the smart vision of the future.

What we need is an upgrade. “Smart” in the form of digital integration has the potential to transform our lives. We need to make our production and manufacturing of goods, our energy sector, our transportation, and our cities “smarter” to meet future demands and the realities of changing political, economic, and natural environments. We need to revisit tools that can make this a reality. The question is: How can smart technologies develop smarter, sustainably conscious cities?


The 5th annual Summer Institute on Sustainability and Energy will:

  • address the coming smart era as a result of digital integration;
  • explore the crossroads of digital manufacturing, smart cities, and energy in the form of the smart grid and transportation;
  • and consider how these innovations can usher in a more sustainable future.

We examine smart digital integration from two perspectives:

  • starting fresh, as one could do with digitally manufacturing a new product;
  • and rehabbing existing systems, as in cities, the electricity grid and transportation.

Specific areas of exploration could include integration; sourcing and use of supply, reduction of waste; energy and resource demands; big data collection and use; anticipation, reaction, and adaptation to the unexpected; and cyber security. Lecturers will present their research and innovative thinking during the day, followed by a correlating group discussion or challenge project concluding each day. Major research projects will challenge participants to consider the crossroads of these topics and solve a real-world scenario.

SISE 2014: Urban Energy

SISE 2014 Flier

SISE 2013: Sustainable Transportation

SISE 2013 Flier

SISE 2012: Election and International Energy

SISE 2012 Flier

SISE 2011: Inaugural Program