Published Online: February 20, 2002
Published in Print: February 20, 2002, as Take Note

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Future Living

It may seem like science fiction, but three students from Rochester, Mich., have designed an underwater city of the future based on real science.

Nada Zhody, Sue Yang, and Stephanie Rink, all 8th graders at the 500-student St. Matthew's Lutheran School, recently won the Michigan regional division of the 10th annual National Engineers Week Future City Competition. They will compete in the finals this week in Washington.

Begun in 1992 by the National Engineers Week Committee, the Future City Competition asks students to design cities that could potentially exist 150 years in the future. Students are first asked to create a city using SimCity computer software.

Once a city is built, the students work in teams alongside a teacher-mentor and a volunteer engineer to build an actual scale model out of recycled materials. Students must study ways in which future cities might cope with concerns such as sewer systems, pollution, energy problems, and population distribution and write an essay on an engineering problem. The results are presented to a panel of judges.

The St. Matthew's trio and five other students worked with teacher Jon Pfund and a volunteer engineer from General Motors to design a model future city that, in theory, could exist with reasonable advances in technology.

The students chose to put their city underwater along the mid-Atlantic ridge where they could use the ocean floor's geothermal activity to push turbines and generate electricity.

While it sounds fun, the project requires a lot of discipline and hard work, said John Pfund, who teaches 6th grade science at the school and has helped students with the competition for six years.

"You need students who are willing to do the work, and good parents, teachers, and volunteer engineers who are willing to provide their time."

Although it began as a small contest, the Future City Competition now has more than 950 schools and 30,000 students who participate annually.

—Marianne Hurst

Vol. 21, Issue 23, Page 3

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