Students building a ‘Future City’

Sweetwater middle schoolers will compete Saturday in contest

Students and school staff are all smiles as they look at a display of “Nateopolis,” a city of the future that won Sweetwater Branch Academy an excellence in engineering award during the 2009 Future City Competition. They are, front, from left, Anna Juckers and Madeline Collins, and back, from left, Marniqua McCray, Keiysa Parker, Sweetwater principal Ugur Baslanti, Sean Cunningham, computer teacher Kyle Ollice, Morgan Wesley and Carly Pace.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 5:38 p.m.

Asking middle school students to create an energy-efficient city that is sustainable 120 years into the future may seem like a tall order, but that is exactly what Sweetwater Branch Academy middle school students will be doing as they prepare for the 2012 Future City Competition.

Claire Matson, a spokeswoman for the Future City Competition, now in its 19th year, said 15 schools, including Sweetwater, an Alachua County charter school located on NE 16th Avenue behind the former Department of Children and Families building, will compete in the Future City Competition regional finals this Saturday at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in the Tampa Bay area.

The first-place winner will advance to the nationals to be held in February in Washington, D.C. This year’s theme is “Fuel Your Future: Imagine New Ways to Meet Our Energy Needs and Maintain a Healthy Planet.”

Matson said the competition is designed to raise awareness and to encourage students to consider engineering as a profession. The competition is sponsored by the National Engineers Week Foundation, a consortium of pubic and private organizations.

Kyle Ollice, a computer teacher at Sweetwater, said students who volunteered for the competition, have been meeting after school on Fridays to brainstorm ideas and to work on their projects

To prepare for the competition, students have been creating energy-efficient city designs using SimCity, a computer game, and writing a research essay and a narrative outlining key features of their city. The best features from the various designs will then be combined using recycled materials to create an actual model for the competition.

“I love the idea of involving kids in the implementation of science so they learn new skills,” said Ugur Baslanti, principal of Sweetwater. “The students learn about the environment and gain real-life skills.”

And the students are full of ideas as they discussed their city.

“You want to create a city where people can live and work,” said eighth-grader Charlotte Griffith. Sean Cunningham, also an eight-grader, said the city has to be eco-friendly, offer quality of life and be profitable to operate.

“You can use your imagination, but you have to stay in budget,” said Caleb Smith, a seventh-grader.

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