By Madina Toure
Eighth-graders at MS 67 in Little Neck are scheduled to compete at the National Finals for the National Engineers Week Future City Competition in Washington Saturday.
Seventeen students entered the regional competition Jan. 17 and won first place.
The members will be representing New York state against other states in the country in the National Finals, which will start Saturday and conclude Wednesday.
The competition is part of the school’s efforts to further emphasize the importance of the city’s STEM education program — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“STEM is an integration of science, technology, engineering and math as a curriculum for students and the idea is that no subject is in isolation,” said Taso Lampoutis, one of MS 67’s assistant principals, who is in charge of the Science Department. “So when the children go on for their careers in the future, they’ll have to maybe integrate some or all of the skills at the same time to solve real world issues.
The Future City Competition asks sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to imagine, design and build cities of the future, according to the official website.
The regional competition required students to pick one vegetable and one protein that would sustain their city, but students were otherwise given freedom to build the city as they pleased.
The eighth-graders worked on their project, which they named “Future Little Neck,” twice a week for an hour after school and five to six hours on four Saturdays from the end of September up until the day of the regional competition.
A science teacher, a mathematics teacher and a computer teacher mentored the students. They built and planned the city using SimCity software and also created a tabletop scale model.
Because the students had to work within a confined space, they took advantage of the vertical component, creating a vertical city with many high-rise buildings. The buildings include vegetable gardens at the top.
The students picked catfish as the city’s protein because it is a good protein source, easy to cultivate and a source of energy to feed vegetables, especially catfish waste. For the vegetable, they chose the cucumber because it is easy to grow and the crop does not take up much room, meaning that they can grow it vertically.
They are taking their winning model to Washington this weekend.
Science teacher Philip Noto said the percentage of students who were interested in pursuing a career in one of the STEM fields increased from about 60 percent to roughly 82 percent following the competition.
“They would come to me throughout the week … saying, ‘Are we having Future City today? I’ve got so many good ideas!,’” he said. “They were really, really excited about it.”
The students, who said they were excited and crying when they won the regional competition, said it was a rewarding experience.
“It was an educational experience for us because it was really fun working with my fellow presenters with the presentation and also we got to learn a lot about city planning,” Shannon Gunawan, 13, an eighth grader, who was one of the presenters, said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.