Plum's Oblock school model city gets several awards at city contest

| Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013, 10:31 p.m.

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was Elliotsburgh, a model city built by students at Oblock Junior High School in Plum.

Fifteen students began to design an entire city back in October as part of the Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition sponsored by the Carnegie Science Center and Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania.

Different criteria were required in making the city, including the use of recycled materials and a spending limit of $100.

The most important rule was to provide a solution to deal with storm-water runoff.

The students also had to write a narrative essay to explain the way their city functioned as well as design a digital city using the game Sim City.

The students brought to life a section of the virtual city in a physical model complete with an underground water-treatment system, flowing river, and Mount Beatty, a notable portion of the model named for the student's technology education teacher and project advisor, Philip Beatty.

Beatty said he was glad to see the students learn different aspects of engineering that they otherwise never would have explored.

“It was nice to see them work cohesively,” he said, adding that the competition developed “a lot of compromising skills and problem solving” skills as different ideas given by the students needed to be organized and agreed on by the whole group.

Beatty said the students “took the bull by the horns” for this project. Toward the end of the endeavor, the students were staying after school from 3 to about 5 p.m. four days a week to finish the model, Beatty said.

The city was presented alongside 25 other model cities from around Western Pennsylvania. Oblock's model won several awards including best city layout, best bridge, and the student's choice for best city.

The students who presented the model, Sofia Chapkis, Jonathan Hiener, and Graham Merlin, said their favorite part of the project was putting together the model.

“It's just more physical, it's more hands-on,” Merlin, 13, said. “It's a different part of the engineering aspect.”

“I also enjoyed doing some of the research to learn about how rain-water runoff affects our city,” said Hiener, 12.

“We found out how to conserve water and protect the rain-water runoff from getting polluted and then clean the bit that is still polluted.”

The project included an intricate water-refinery plant that theoretically would separate clean water from polluted water and redirect the runoff to the appropriate part of the city.

The city utilized aspects of all kinds of engineering including civil, mechanical, and electrical.

“I wasn't really interested in engineering before but this got me a lot more interested in it,” Chapkis, 12, said.

The complexity of the city and its practical applications are something that Beatty hopes will transfer as an interest for the students as they possibly pursue opportunities in the future.

“I'd love to hear that a couple of these students did pursue an interest in engineering or architecture or something along those lines,” Beatty said.

Matthew DeFusco is an intern for Trib Total Media.

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