News / USA

Teen Engineers Design Green Cities of the Future

National competition focuses on preparing for emergencies

Davidson IB Middle School from North Carolina captured the top prize in the 2010 National Engineers Week Future City Competition with Mamohatra, a future metropolis that combines advanced technologies, green principals and cultural diversity.
Davidson IB Middle School from North Carolina captured the top prize in the 2010 National Engineers Week Future City Competition with Mamohatra, a future metropolis that combines advanced technologies, green principals and cultural diversity.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

On the third and final day of the 2010 Engineers Week Future City Competition regional winners from 39 schools, along with their parents, teachers and mentors packed a Washington, D.C. hotel ballroom for the announcement of the five finalists — whittled down from the 1,100 middle school teams that entered the contest in September.

Each team was given 12 minutes on stage to make their case before the audience and a panel of judges.

System failure

Luke Churchill from North Carolina's Davidson IB Middle School looked confident as he fielded a question about what would happen if the central computer system in his city failed. "We actually have a separate computer system located within a secure facility within the mountain," he told the judges. "So, if the central computer is destroyed or incapacitated in some way the city can continue to function using the computer within the mountain."

Davidson student Emily Yue makes the case for Mamohatra before a panel of judges. She argues that the city's CARE refugee center offers housing to victims of natural disaster or financial hardship.
Davidson student Emily Yue makes the case for Mamohatra before a panel of judges. She argues that the city's CARE refugee center offers housing to victims of natural disaster or financial hardship.

It's no wonder that Luke knows his stuff. He and his seven teammates spent nearly every weekend since September on research and design, using computer simulation to turn their ideas into a 3-dimensional table-top model for the contest.

When the judges scores were tallied all that hard work paid off. Davidson won the top award for its future city, called Mamohatra. It means "to revive" in Malagasy, the language spoken in Madagascar.

Team member Ruth Swallow says the fictional town — set in the year 2346 — deals with real-life environmental problems on the island nation today. "We decided we wanted to fix these problems and so our agriculture program doesn't complicate erosion, and also it also replenishes the top soil."

Click to Listen:

Download/Play Audio File


Luke adds that the plan incorporates vertical farming, which, he says, "is a process of having different floors and farms within a building. Therefore there is no erosion, and we can more helpfully solve the problems within Madagascar's environment."

Brightest minds

The competition's focus this year was preparing for emergencies. Each team had to design housing for victims of a natural disaster or financial hardship. Davidson met that challenge with a refugee center that had easy access to Mamohatra city services.

Ruth explains that the center's apartment towers are made from an innovative and affordable building material called agro-waste, a compound that combines agricultural by-produces like banana peels and rice husks with beach sand into a kind of stucco. "We pack agro-waste on to a carbon fiber framework equipped with nano sensors. The nano-sensors send electromagnetic waves throughout the brick so that engineers can know when to repair or replace it," she says.

Team member Emily Yue says other buildings in their city integrate a kind of synthetic plastic known as cellulosics. "Cellulosics are basically made from cellulose which is from plants." When mixed with plasticizers,  plastic is created, Ruth says. "It's relatively scratch resistant, and it can be molded to form into different shapes. So we used this in most of our buildings."     

Emily says these advanced systems — modeled with recycled materials like discarded parts of a fire alarm, cookie containers, shampoo bottles and venetian blinds — are not science fiction. "This city could be built with these technologies in the next 30 years. It's no longer a matter of what things are. It's a matter of how they work, and that's pretty amazing."

Future engineers

And if the Future City Competition is any indication, the team from Davidson IB Middle School will be the engineers doing just that. Luke says he now has an idea of what his future career would be like.

As grand prize winners, Davidson students will get a chance to try-out astronaut simulators at Space Camp at Huntsvilla, Alabama's U.S. Space and Rocket Center.
As grand prize winners, Davidson students will get a chance to try-out astronaut simulators at Space Camp at Huntsvilla, Alabama's U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

"I realize how much work engineers actually do. Everything in the city, everything in the building, everything in technology has all been created and designed by engineers, and I didn't know how much they were involved in our society."

The next step for this budding engineer and his teammates is a vacation.  The Future City Competition grand prize is a trip to Huntsville, Alabama — home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center's Space Camp — where the students will become astronauts for a week and have a chance to consider the engineering possibilities in space.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More