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Continued: South-metro students learn engineering schools through Future City competition

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 18, 2014 - 2:00 PM

A second team invented Awecity, a city incorporating Small Electric Cars (SEC), similar to go-carts, to move people around. A second part of their plan involves a monorail that levitates on magnets and can even carry riders’ tiny cars to new locations.

Both teams are led by Alyssa Simmers, a math teacher and first-time coach. While some teams participate as part of a class, others, like Simmers’ teams, meet after school, usually twice a week.

One challenge was getting students to see the big picture, since the project has so many parts, she said.

In addition to designing a tabletop model of their city — worth the most points — teams must research and write two essays, create a virtual city using SimCity software, and formulate an oral presentation for the judges.

Teamwork is key

Both teams have done the majority of the work on their own, Simmers said, with advising from mentors along the way.

Grunewald said he often reminded students that their city, which must include industrial, residential and commercial sections, should be “futuristic but realistic.”

Students also learned background information from a visit by Rosemount’s mayor, Bill Droste, who discussed city planning, and from University of Minnesota students, who explained their solar car project.

The students “have done a lot of self-motivating,” Simmers said. “It’s their project, so you kind of let them go for it.”

Another important lesson was how to work as a team, she said.

The Awecity team had “some troubles with that,” said Sean Witte, a sixth-grader on the team. “We were kind of arguing, we didn’t really work together that well.” But things have improved over time, he said.

Steve VanderWiel, the teams’ other mentor, is an IBM engineer. He said he’s enjoyed watching both teams brainstorm ideas, which they do “better than some of the adults I know.”

Whether the students all become engineers isn’t important, VanderWiel said. “The best thing is getting them to try out as many things as possible, and this is just one of those experiences.”

Erin Adler • 952-746-3283

  • related content

  • At Rosemount Middle School, Jack Flom, 13, and Michael Stefanko, 14, worked on their model of the city Altona. The Future City competition asks students to solve global problems by designing their own vision of a city in the future.

  • Jacob Engel painted the streets of his group’s model of the city Altona, which is supplied power by a thorium nuclear reactor and geothermal wells.

  • Teacher Alyssa Simmers overlooked Awecity with team members Will Rhoda, 12, and Sam Vanderwiel, 13. The city is powered by solar and wind energy and features a maglev train.

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