Civil and Environmental Engineering

School of Engineering

Local middle school students share their vision for cities of the future

TROY — Nearly 300 kids packed into the McDonough Sports Complex at Hudson Valley Community College on Saturday for the Regional Future City Competition. Middle school kids from all over the Capital District built cities while incorporating this year’s theme of alternative energy.

Students were tasked with building a model city for the future with the help of their teacher coach and an engineer-volunteer mentor from their community. The theme this year was alternative energy, so students had to find ways that either geothermal, solar, wind or hydro energy could be used to help run the city. Some groups just focused on using one form of alternative energy while other tried to use several.

Jennifer Smith, regional coordinator for the Capital District Future City Competition, said the kids worked over the past five months designing their cities and researching what goes into building one.

“They provide how you can create the energy and distribute the energy,” Smith said. “The students are able to take what they learn and they have to apply it. That’s one of the big pieces. It’s a hands-on application.”

Alternative energy is something the United States should consider as it moves forward into the future, Smith said as the problem of pollution is becoming more prevalent. These are all problems, though, that Smith said vice presidents in big corporations are trying to solve.

“This generation needs to be mindful of what our future is going to look like,” Smith said. “These are all questions these students are going to have to address when they’re adults.”

There are four steps that have to be completed by the students. The first is the actual design of the city, which factors in 100 points of their score. The students used SimCity 4 Deluxe software to create the design of their city, set 150 years in the future with a population of 50,000 or greater.

Then students must write an essay and create a city narrative, which are worth 70 and 20 points, respectively, where they must write about how the use of alternative energy would work in their city in 1,000 words or less. The building of the city and the final product is worth 100 points and the up-to-seven-minute presentation is worth 90 points.

One the groups hoping to take home first prize were the students from W.K. Doyle Middle School who created their city called “Hydropolus” with help from 7th grade math teacher Julia Dunsmoor, 7th grade science teacher Celine Boule and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute engineering students

The W.K. Doyle Middle School students decided to utilize geothermal electricity that uses a flash steam cycle to create energy.

“The cold water is transported under and it comes up as steam,” said student Swetha Thiagarjan. “It comes up and it powers the turbine and causes the generator to spin and converts the energy into electricity.”

Jonah Sadowski, another member of the group, said they decided to use geothermal energy because it was a more convenient form of energy. What was difficult though was learning where to put things in the city as you have to take into consideration what the economy will be like in the city and what the population is.

“I hope we win,” Sadowski said. “It’s an awesome opportunity. I hope we can do it again next year.”

Students from Holy Spirit School decided to use fuel cells as their source of energy for their city by using both solar and wind energy to form hydrogen, which they stripped of its electrons to create and electrical current, according to Brevin Felischer, one of the students in the group.

“This hydrogen was then distributed by our smart grid system to all parts of the city,” Fleischer said.

“We thought the solar energy and the wind energy would not be as consistent, so we decided to use all of them and it was the most efficient and fuel cells are made locally and naturally,” said Aidan Cooper, another member of the group.

The Holy Spirit students got help from their computer science teacher Mary Lou Ritz, science teacher Nathan Mahoney and members of GE Energy to create their city “Intimacha.” Brevin said it is nice to know there are things available to them outside of the athletic realm as well as meet new friends, learn new ideas as well as learn how their own city works.

“It was a really good learning experience,” said group member Stryker Ross. “We learned about different kinds of energy that can be used and we learned there are ways to combine different forms of energy to make an even better one.”