Students head to state ‘Future City’ competition

By Christia Gibbons

January 18, 2013 - 4:07 pm
City builders, from left, Bryce Taft, Mateo Solano, Isaiah Arias and Henry Shrock. Their 'Secundus Experiri' city has an extractor for mining. Christia Gibbons photo

Students were fine-tuning presentations and parents were carting entire cities to Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library on Friday as the blended-learning students at Maricopa Wells Middle School readied for state competition next week.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in the MUSD20+1 program have been working in mixed- and same-grade groups imagining and then building cities of the future.

Some cities have working solar panels lighting electricity where others use water to hydro power infrastructure. There is a Ferris wheel in one city and futuristic hotel in another.

“We have an underground recreational center that doubles as a shelter in the event of an emergency,” said student Henry Shrock.

Bryce Taft, who is on Henry’s team, pointed out their city’s rotating extractor “digs for minerals for power, water, basic manufacturing . . . for construction purposes.”

Gerry Hahn, an electrical engineer who works on power plants, along with storm-water engineer Emery Layton, has donated his expertise and volunteered his time helping the students.

“The students would tell me what they wanted to build and we’d build it,” Hahn said. “It was always their ideas.”

The students’ future cities will be on display at the Phoenix library in the week leading up to the Future City Arizona competition Jan. 26 at Arizona State University Preparatory Academy in Phoenix. The 13 Maricopa Wells cities will compete with about 150 from around the state. The winner goes on to a national competition in Washington, D.C., which is a featured event during National Engineers Week Feb. 16-19.

On Monday, students did a practice run of their five- to seven-minute presentations before a panel of judges who offered tips on how to best present their projects. The judges included Rick Abel, Maricopa Wells principal; Joe Veres, Desert Wind Middle School principal; Steve Chestnut, superintendent of the Maricopa Unified School District; Oscar Brown, an electrical engineer and youth football coach; Councilman Leon Potter; Jim Rives, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Institute; Bob Goodhue, the city’s interim development services director; and Verl Long, head of the Maricopa campus for Central Arizona College.

Each group has given at least 10 presentations and on Friday students were practicing once again in front of the blended-learning teachers William Lange, Joe Szoltysik and Robin Rice.

This is the fifth year Szoltysik and Rice have had students in the Future City competition. In 2011, MUSD won the most awards in the state at six.

While the main Future City winner in the state competition goes on to D.C., other cities get awards from nearly 20 technical groups and corporations. They range from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for “best futuristic city” to Bentley System, Inc. for “best management of water resources” to the Chinese Institute of Engineers/USA for “best residential zoning.”

Rice and Szoltysik said the blended-learning program, in which students work at their own pace online and with teachers, has provided more flexibility to work one-on-one with students and fully develop their concepts.

“They have really gotten the benefits of understanding the engineering,” Rice said.

Szoltysik added, “This environment provides the ability to use innovation much more than the traditional classroom.”

“We know we have some contenders,” Rice said of the state competition. “The quality of the cities is higher then in the past.”

Click here for more information on the Future Cities competition.

Click here for more information on the blended-learning program.

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