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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora