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

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator 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.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs