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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 19, 2012

FMS Future City engineers learn about
everything from alternative energy to other cultures

TROY — Excitement was in the air at the Future City Competition at Hudson Valley Community College on Jan. 14. The crowd was scrambling to find seats and the anticipation was mounting for the five teams going into the final judging round: Holy Spirit, Acadia, Maple Hill, Academy of Holy Names, and Farnsworth Middle School.

Farnsworth, a Guilderland school for sixth- through eighth-graders, had two teams this year, consisting of 37 kids. They were the scientists and engineers behind the ideas for the cities Ponce 2223, which is a real city in Puerto Rico, and Kazan Chi Ma in Japan, which translates roughly into “island of the volcano,” and came in second in the overall competition. While not both teams made it into the final judging round, each had a plethora of fascinating and creative ideas included in the construction of their cities.

The competition, which officially starts in September, was being considered at Farnsworth Middle School as early as last spring. Preparation includes researching, building the cities using Sim City software; gathering recycled materials that fit within the $100 budget; constructing the city; writing an essay; and presenting the ideas involved to other teams, bystanders, and judges during the competition.

Both Farnsworth teams used a lot of recycled materials for the construction of their cities and one student even suggested that most of their budget had been used on purchasing glue sticks and not on actual materials. All of the students seemed to agree that meeting the budget wasn’t hard since everyone on the team brought in items like empty soap bottles, plastic containers, and even an old computer mouse or two.

Holly Delwiche of the Kazan Ma Chi team said that the most challenging aspect of the competition was that the team “had to make sure all of our buildings fit to scale.” Both cities had the same scale of one inch to 40 feet, but each had its own innovative way of meeting this year’s challenge: “incorporating an alternative energy source that would not deplete natural resources and would have a limited impact on the environment.”

Sean Gordon, of the Ponce 2223 team, discussed how Ponce was powered by harnessing the negative ions in clouds before there was lightning. Jordyn Helfrich, of the Kazan Chi Ma team, stated that their city “has many renewable energy sources.” Kazan Ma Chi used both a volcano and earthquakes, among other renewable energy sources, for power. Rising heat from the earth could turn turbines to generate electricity, while steam from a volcano was also captured, cooled, and then used as a purified water source for the city.

Kazan Chi Ma would also be located on fault lines in Japan, which would then use the earthquake energy to help power the city. Also, the city had a unique feature that “knows when an earthquake will occur to evacuate the people,” said Andreea Musteata.

Erin Delwiche, who was one of the presenters for Kazan Chi Ma, said that designing the city “really taught me about alternative energy sources and helped with technology and science.”

This wasn’t all that these students learned. Another presenter, Erin’s twin sister, Holly Delwiche, said that she “learned about other cultures.” And the third presenter for the Kazan Chi Ma team, Jordyn Helfrich, said that the biggest thing she learned was “working with others on how to solve issues.”

Throughout the competition, teamwork was on display as students supported one another. Madison Macchiarella insisted that fellow team member Andreea Musteata was “psychic because she predicted that we would be in the final five and now we are!” While Musteata insisted that it was just positive thinking, it showed the friendships and teamwork that came about as a result of the competition.

The Future City Competition focuses on showing middle-school students how engineering has a direct influence on their lives and how math, science, and technology are relevant to each child.

The kids participating in the competition are learning many life skills as well. Teams have to meet a deadline, which encourages self direction; critical thinking and innovation come in the form of their creativity in the construction of the cities; collaboration is apparent throughout the competition when team members have to learn how to work together; and communication is learned through the presentation of ideas during judging and answering questions from the passersby about the cities.

The students were not all alone in this competition, and had help from Farnsworth teachers Thomas McGreevy and Richard Laselle, as well as engineering mentor Thomas Rabor. While these three men were available to help the students, Sean Gordon said that “they were there for the dangerous stuff like cutting things,” and that the majority of the work was done by the students.

Many of the students participating in this competition were recruited by either a teacher or a fellow team member for their desire to learn more about math, science, and technology. But students discovered that they learned so much more.

Neither Farnsworth team won first place in the competition; that honor went to Acadia Middle School, which will now compete in Washington, D.C. Farnsworth students have competed nationally in recent years.

But Laselle pointed out that it really wasn’t about the winning. It was about the learning that students did.

The two teams each walked away with two individual awards. Ponce 2223 won The Best Green Roadway Design “because it was green and made of grass,” said McGreevy. It also won the student vote for Best City to Live In.

 Kazan Ma Chi won The Most Innovative Design of Infrastructure for an Alternative Energy Source since the earthquake fault lines weren’t just an energy source but a warning system for the citizens of the city. Kazan Ma Chi also won The Most Sustainable Transportation System, which was for the citizens’ ability to call and have a car brought to wherever they are, drop them off, and receive a new passenger while using fuel cells to power the car.

Regardless of the awards won, each student gave an enthusiastic “Yes!” in response to being asked if they would do the competition again the following year, which, next to their newly acquired skills, may possibly be the most important lesson learned of all.

Editor’s note: Xena Pulliam, a Knox resident, is a senior at Tech Valley High School working this January as an intern for The Enterprise on her senior project.

— By Xena Pulliam

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