A vision of the Earth providing electricity for an entire city powered Acadia Middle School’s team to a first-place finish in the Capital District Regional National Engineers Week Future City competition.
Team adviser Diane Betzwieser, a retired teacher, said this is the first time Acadia has captured the top prize in the middle school competition, which was held Jan. 14 at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
Acadia is in the Shenendehowa Central School District.
Students had to design a city using the computer program SimCity 4 Deluxe, as well as build a three-dimensional scale model using recycled materials. The total cost could be no more than $100. The team then had to present its city before a panel of judges and write a research essay.
This year’s theme was renewable energy, and students had to power their city using either geothermal, solar, hydroelectric or wind energy, according to Betzwieser.
This hypothetical city was set in Iceland, which is known for its volcanoes — a potent source of heat.
Student Jerry Qu explained that the city, which the team dubbed “Paradome,” had three domes powered by geothermal energy. The Earth’s heat quickly melts ice and turns it to steam, which powers a turbine that provides electricity. The steam is then cooled and turned back into water, reheated again and the process repeated.
Qu explained the major industries are geothermal research, as well as civil service jobs and cultural activities. A magnetic levitation train allows people to travel from dome to dome.
The team met once a week to work on their project and presentation. Seventh-grader Aedan Gillan, 13, said he liked the freedom of planning an entire city to fix the problem of pollution by using a renewable energy source.
But students admitted the project was finished at the last moment.
“We stayed until six o’clock at night the night before the contest,” said 13-year-old Eric Lovelock.
Betzwieser also credited fellow adviser Diane Wheeler, an art teacher, for their success in developing the look of the city in its model.
“In the past, we have not been as visually effective,” Betzwieser said.
Seventh-grader Derek Bateman, 12, said he enjoys having people see what they have done and learning how other teams approached the problem.
A total of 24 schools participated in the competition.
Lovelock, 13, said he was surprised by the team’s success because last time it didn’t finish in the top five.
Betzwieser explained that the younger students are mentored by the older ones and when they get to eighth grade, they start doing the presentation.
Some of the students who were involved in the competition in the past have gone on to become engineers. Many of the students indicated they would like to pursue that career.
“I like building stuff. I like taking stuff apart,” said 13-year-old Gregory Lovelock, Eric’s brother, also in eighth grade.
Eighth-grader Meghna Dash, 13, who did the presentation, said she learned valuable public speaking skills. She would like to have a career in alternative energy.
The other members of the team are Andrew Fang, Alec Herbert, Wesley Turner and Zhaoyu “Joe” Lou and Jeffrey Qu, Jerry Qu’s brother.
The teams’s volunteer engineering mentor was Albert James Betzwieser from ESPEY Manufacturing.
The group will now travel to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 20th annual Future City National Finals scheduled for Feb. 19-25. The grand prize is a trip to Space Camp in Alabama, provided by National Finals host Bentley Systems Inc. The second-place team receives $5,000 from the National Society of Professional Engineers, and third place earns $2,000 from IEEE-USA for the school’s technology programs.
Second place at the regional competition went to Farnsworth Middle School in Guilderland, third place to Maple Hill Middle School in Castleton-on-Hudson, fourth to Holy Spirit School in East Greenbush and fifth place to the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany.
Draper Middle School from the Mohonasen Central School District received a special award for the best use of construction material for its team’s “Goldenville” city. Jerry Garing, science and technology administrator for Mohonasen, said the students were creative in using materials.
“They used wood scraps, glue sticks, cardboard, string wire, a vast array of whatever they could find lying around,” he said.
It is a real learning experience for the students, Garing said.
“It’s one of those things where the idea comes easy but getting the work done is another thing. Working together and sharing ideas, that’s probably the most useful part of the whole thing,” he said.
Last year, the team won an award for bridge design.