Teens Engineer Urban Utopias: Kenmore Team's Has Marble Streets

Article excerpt

Middle school students from 23 schools in the District, suburban Virginia and Maryland showed how they would solve such grown-up problems as pollution, traffic gridlock and unemployment during the National Engineers Week Future City competition.

The students' task was to create a city on a computer using SimCity 2000 and the Urban Renewal Kit add-on software. Then, using the information gleaned from the initial process, they were to build a three-dimensional model.

Each group of three students had to contend with the same difficulties city planners in the next century will likely contend with, including politics and financial pressure.

If, for example, the students devised a too-fancy transportation system for the model city, the computer program would warn them of the pollution the system would produce and the high cost of building it. So the students had to keep tinkering until they came up with a more workable plan.

Lilly Greenwald, Nicholas Mackie-Jones and Nick Von Hagel, all age 13 and all eighth-graders at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, walked away with top honors for their model, which depicted a city called Hope, population 336,000. They bested four other schools in the finals.

The students received gold medals, T-shirts commemorating National Engineers Week, a large trophy and an energy cube from the Exxon Corp. They also won in the category for best transportation.

"When I came here, I wasn't expecting to win," Nicholas said. "But we did."

Nicholas and his team members said they learned teamwork, sharing the workload equally and working under pressure. From start to finish the project took about four months, said science teacher Margaret Chung.

The Kenmore team - which came up with a split-level city complete with marble-topped roads to reduce wear and tear on tires - worked almost until the last minute, finally completing all aspects of the project the night before the competition. …