Competition takes students 'from science to science fiction'
By Courtney Llewellyn
Reminder Assistant Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW Some of the students at Birchland Park Middle School recently worked together to create a better vision of the future. A team from the school designed and built a new city for the National Engineers Week Future City regional competition, which took place Jan. 17 at Northeastern University.
The team had to design their future city first by using SimCity 4 Deluxe software. For this year's competition, teams had to focus on ways to improve water use by creating a home system that minimizes the use of municipal or externally supplied water for its daily requirements.
The Birchland Park team, which placed ninth out of 17 teams, designed a floating city for their project.
"We were trying to accomplish something not thought of before," member of the team Brian Grohe explained. "That's why we designed the floating city."
Grohe said residential part of the city was built above water-level, while the industrial part was built underwater.
"At first, we thought we'd do it all underwater," fellow team member Gourab Sarker said, "but there were issues about people getting enough sunlight. That's why we decided to keep people above ground."
The team, which was officially made up of Sarker, Grohe, Brandon Drumheller, Brian Sleator, Anne Stack (all eighth graders) and Carter Ferranti (a sixth grader).
"A lot of other kids worked on the city as well," Gifted and Talented teacher Suzanne Collins, advisor for the team, said, "probably at least 20 kids in all."
Grohe said that what attracted him to the project was the challenge.
"It's the challenge of figuring out solutions to problems that haven't been figured out yet," he said.
Sarker joined the team because he thought it looked like fun.
The two team members differed on what seemed to be the hardest part of the project. Grohe said he thought it was creating the virtual city because it was the first time SimCity 4 had been used, but Sarker said the three-dimensional scale model was harder to put together.
Both were happy with the end results, though, and Grohe said he thought the competition and their presentation went well.
"It's a great project," Collins said. "There are a lot of components to it. The students learn about engineering and math...They researched current water technologies and then came up with new technology for the future. They went from science to science fiction."
She added that the team learned more about teamwork and self-direction.
"I'm happy they did such a great job," Collins said. "It's a huge project. I'm proud of them. It was great to see them grow."
Although the team that created the floating city model will not be moving on to the next round of competition, Collins said there is a lot of interest from students to participate next year. The Future City club is open to all sixth, seventh and eighth graders at the middle school, and Collins believes the group will be bigger next year.