HBW Students Participate In Future City Competition

By on February 16, 2016
TwoTopia Winning Team Eric Song, Henry Wertz and Chris Lakin

TwoTopia, winner of Best Planning Practice: Eric Song, Henry Wertz and Chris Lakin (l-r), with HBW teacher Julia Harth.

What would a city 150 years in the future look like? How would the buildings be designed? Where would people live? How would they travel? What would the power source be? What would food sources look like?

These questions, and others, are at the core of the annual Future City Competition in which students learn to do what engineers do: Find solutions to problems, brainstorm ideas and then share the results. The theme for the 2015-16 competition was “Waste Not, Want Not”. For the first time, two teams of 8th graders were chosen from Verona’s H.B. Whitehorne Middle School to participate, present their projects, and learn from industry experts during this one-day event at Rutgers University.

The Future City competition, sponsored by the tech consortia DiscoverE, is designed specifically for middle school students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and each year the challenge is different. For this year’s “Waste Not, Want Not” theme, the participating students had to design an innovative city-wide solid waste disposal system for their future city that was safe, environmentally sound and energy efficient. As part of the competition, the students built a model of their city, presented their project to various judges, and wrote an essay about their city.


Blueholt: Alessandra Newman, Abigail Bermeo and Emily Weisser

The participating students were from Julia Harth’s Technology, Engineering & Design (T.E.D.) cycle class. This cycle is new for the 2015-16 school year and Harth’s goal has been to “increase students’ motivation and excitement about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” she said. Harth, who is also new to HBW this year, introduced this competition to her students as a way to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. “By challenging students to tackle authentic, real-world problems, I hope they not only see how math and science are important to their future, but also themselves pursuing careers in these fields,” said Harth. She asked all eighth grade students in the first quarter of T.E.D. to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future. Three teams of four to five students were interested in submitting their designs to the Future City Competition. Two student teams were invited to present at the competition: Blueholt, comprised of Abigail Bermeo, Alessandra Newman and Emily Weisser; and TwoTopia, made up of Chris Lakin, Eric Song and Henry Wertz. At the conclusion of the competition, TwoTopia won an award for Best Planning Practices and a tour of the John A. Cifelli New Jersey Statewide Traffic Management Center, a facility in Woodbridge that monitors traffic and emergencies on the state’s major roads.

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Harth hopes that both the T.E.D. cycle class and the Future City Competition can be opened to younger grades in the 2016-17 school year. “Ultimately, this competition requires students to work through the design process while building knowledge on what’s involved in creating a city. The engineering design process is the main focus of T.E.D., which is why I chose to incorporate this activity into the course,” Harth said. By starting students in this process at younger grade levels, they will have an opportunity to learn from each year’s experience and build on it for future, which is a key aspect of engineering, design and education.

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