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Students use computers to design cities for contest

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2002

Anthony Catania's eyes gleamed as he spoke about his favorite activity — using computer software to design houses.

"I love designing and drawing," said Catania, 13, a seventh-grader at Linton Middle School in Penn Hills. "I want to be an architect or engineer."

So when the youngster learned about the Carnegie Science Center Future City Competition 2002, Catania, along with two classmates, made sure they got in the game.

The Linton Middle School students were among a group of seventh- and eighth-graders from 59 area schools who presented their ideas for a futuristic city Saturday morning in the competition conducted at PNC Park.

Teams of three students, a teacher and an engineer mentor designed their city using software. They also built a 3-D model using recycled materials and wrote a 500-word essay on an engineering topic. The models were rated by groups of judges and an awards ceremony was conducted.

Linton Middle School's future city, "Suthersburgh" is named after the youngsters' science teacher, Brian Sutherland.

Using recyled containers and even an old Erector set — a toy steel and girder set — discovered in someone's attic, Catania, Caroline Marra and Kirsten Sweeney, also 13, constructed the city, set in 2025. The main feature of "Suthersburgh" is the absence of fossil fuels for power.

"We use microwave power and fuel cells," Catania said. "There is no more gasoline and no pollution."

A trio of students at Holy Spirit School in Millvale dubbed their future city "Klondikeville" because they love — Klondikes.

"Klondikeville" was constructed using recycled iced tea containers, toilet paper rolls, egg cartons and jewelry boxes, to name a few of the building materials. The city is set in 3000.

"We asked people in school to bring in recyclable things," said Matt Konzier, 13.

"Klondikeville" runs on solar power. Other features are underground wiring and people who borrow energy efficient cars at the car "borrowship" so that vehicles are not parked everywhere, according to the students.

"The houses are dome-shaped so they are energy efficient," Konzier said. "They have 10 percent of the regular heating and cooling bills."

Mike Roos, mentor on "Klondikeville" and an electrical engineer at Homewood Products, said the students' creativity was hard to contain.

"They had so many ideas," Roos said. "This (competition) gives them an idea of what to expect (on the job)."

Carl Schwartz, Future City regional coordinator and project manager at Westinghouse Electric Co. in Monroeville, said the program is the fastest growing competition for middle school students in science and technology.

"The kids come together, work together and solve problems," said Schwartz.

Schwartz said specifically the students try to solve dilemmas associated with traffic, pollution, employment, education and crime by exploring scenarios such as where and how to implement factories, parks, transportation systems, housing and schools.

The competition is conducted in 29 regions. The local contest, in its third year, is the third largest, Schwartz said.

The budget for the competition is $40,000 and is funded by sponsors, donors and the Pittsburgh Engineering Society.

Harrison Middle School students dubbed their city "ENCORE," Environmental Nautical Community of Renewable Energy.

The city is set in 2089 and uses electrical energy including flying wind kites, generators and solar panels on rooftops.

"There are virtually no harmful pollutants," said Mike Dorman, 14, an eighth grader at the school which is in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District. "It could be a city for the future."

An especially creative feature of the city is the theme park that teaches people about energy.

Students made seaweed by using shredded cardboard boxes spray painted with green. And styrofoam was placed inside buildings.

"We worked well together, we're all friends," said William Striegl, 14. "It really helps develop teamwork."

Northgate Middle School students dubbed their future city "Philsville," for a janitor at the school.

The students used pine cones on rooftops, plastic bags crumpled to resemble water, construction paper and other materials.

Jon Gubish, 14, was especially proud to show off the city's casino, which used a pump to provide air pressure to shake the dice.

Josephine Crapis, eighth-grade physical science teacher at Northgate, said the competition was valuable for students because it "goes across all subject matter."

"They get to know about engineering and all the other options out there," said Crapis.

The winning team in the competition receives an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., Feb. 17-23 during National Engineers Week for the national finals.

In addition, each team member receives $1,000 in U.S. savings bonds and $100 in gift certificates.


Top five winners in the Future City competition:
  • 1. Trinity Middle School — Washington, Pa.
  • 2. Fort Couch Middle School — Upper St. Clair
  • 3. ECHO Home School — Ellwood City
  • 4. St. Bede School — Point Breeze
  • 5. Rocky Grove High School — Franklin

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