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Thứ Sáu, 24 tháng 1, 2014

SAP Hosts Future City Competition - Delaware County Daily Times

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Drexel Hill Middle School engineering students have tied their hopes in this year�s Future City Competition to a vacuum-driven mass transit model set in the 22nd Century.

�Our kids came up with something they call the WOMBAT system that goes above and below ground which people can access at the end of their driveway,� said William Waldron Jr., an engineer for AT&T and longtime mentor to DHMS engineering students.

Teams from Drexel Hill and more than three dozen other Philadelphia-area middle schools will gather today at SAP America headquarters in Newtown Square to compete in the Philadelphia region of the Future City Competition, an annual event sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation.

The day-long event starts at 9 a.m. and is open to the public. After a preliminary round of judging in the morning, six finalists are selected and compete head-to-head in the afternoon for a spot in the Future City National Finals next month in Washington D.C.

Drexel Hill Middle School teams have made it to nationals twice, most recently in 2004, and the Philadelphia representative is always viewed as a threat at nationals. Teams from Radnor Middle School and St. Andrew School in Drexel Hill are also in the field.

George Hight has been teaching engineering and leading the Future City effort at DHMS for the last 10 years.

�Students are broken into numerous groups based on their interests,� said Hight, who introduced Future City to his students at nearby St. Bernadette School before taking a job in the Upper Darby School District in 1998. �We have groups that worked on the essay, computer simulation, model construction, buildings, and scenery.�

The competition has a different focus every year. This year�s topic is �Tomorrow�s Transit.� In prior years, students have wrestled with stormwater management, alternative energy, designing affordable housing using green building standards and combating urban disasters.

WOMBAT is the SEPTA of a futuristic fictional Australian city called Terra Deorsum. �It�s works like the vacuum tubes you see at a bank but with a chain of individual vehicles,� Waldron said. �In coming up with their design, the kids researched a company that has proposed something similar.�

While all 24 eighth-graders in Hight�s class had a hand in the design, only three were chosen to present at regionals. This year the honor belongs to Myah Brown, Chris DeMott and Grace Muldoon. The alternate presenter is Grace McNall.

�Diversity is important,� Muldoon said. �We had a number of different personalities who all contributed their personal ideas, but we managed to make a product that incorporated as many of their ideas as possible.�

With so many competing opinions, Brown said teamwork was key.

�When we grow up we won�t like everyone we work with but we have to learn to get past our differences to come together...(and) achieve a common goal,� she said.

Students design their virtual cities using SimCity software and then build table-top models with recycled materials and a $100 budget. They are judged on their presentation, virtual city design, physical model, research essay and city narrative.

�Many of the students wanted to build their city underground (and) a similar number wanted to build above ground so this year�s model reflects both ideas,� Hight said. �The model has two tiers with an old display from a lipstick sales rack that looks like an upside down wedding cake sitting in the middle of the model to tie both concepts together.�

The center display on the model, which is 25 inches deep and 50 inches wide, rotates to show different building zones of the city along with a number of clear plastic tubes that represent the WOMBAT grid.

�What we should be getting out of future city is the most efficient way to solve problems creatively, as well as be able to communicate these ideas to our peers,� DeMott said.

Waldron, a 1985 graduate of Upper Darby High School and DHMS alum, said part of his job is to make sure the design is plausible.

�We have to make sure they are not violating the laws of physics and that what they are doing is actually achievable,� he said. �The kids come up with a lot of great ideas but sometimes I have to say, �You know, it just doesn�t work that way.��

Students get seven minutes to present their model to judges and then spend eight minutes answering questions.

�They have to defend their entire city, from the infrastructure to where their water and power comes from,� Waldron said. �In this year�s (design), they have to serve the aboriginal population as well, so they have to be prepared to answer a lot of questions.�

While the goal is always to make it into the top six at regionals � a feat DHMS students have accomplished 13 times in 15 years � Waldron said it is even more important to represent the school in a positive way.

�There is a competitive part to it, and that�s what Saturday is about, but we also stress sportsmanship and being friendly and supportive of other teams,� he said. �They have a People�s Choice award that all the schools vote on � it�s kind of a popularity contest � and we have won it the last two years.

�We would love to win the competition but it�s even more important to do things the right way.�

Since the start of the school year, more than 35,000 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in 40 regions around the country have participated in the Future City Competition.

The winning team in the Philadelphia region will receive medals, a trophy and certificates, cash prize, and an invitation to a Feb. 20 reception at Villanova University that serves as the concluding event of Delaware Valley Engineers Week.

The national champion wins $7,000 and a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

Prime sponsors for the Future City Competition include Dow, Bentley Systems, Inc., Pennoni Associates, Inc., Shell, Urban Engineers, Inc., AECOM, and the Philadelphia Post of the Society of American Military Engineers. SimCity software is donated each year by Electronic Arts.

For more information on the Future City Competition and sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, visit

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