At the Future Cities Competition
Young Engineering Students Have the Future in Mind
How will their generation shape the world?
That was the question posed to the ten Sayville Middle School S.T.E.M. students who were among the students from twenty-seven regional schools attending the Future Cities Competition, a non-profit national competition sponsored by the engineering community to promote technological literacy and engineering. The annual competition was created to give middle school students a chance to share their solutions and ideas by addressing the future engineering challenges that might face cities and society.
Sayville Middle School Science teacher Gabrielle Lambiase, Tech teacher Jeff Goodman, and the S.T.E.M. team reported at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning in January for the competition held in China Town. Even though they had to arrive quite early, everyone (the team leaders, team members, and their relatives who came along for moral support) showed tremendous commitment.
For the Sayville team, the process of getting there had begun months before and the high spirits they brought that morning to the competition had been hard won.
Science teacher and S.T.E.M. adviser Gabrielle Lambiase explained that after the idea to attend the competition was proposed in late September, the student-selection and planning began from scratch. Quickly she realized they had their work cut out for them. “From the start it was more than accepting the challenge. It was a lesson in teamwork.”
Meeting them every day at lunch and after school, Mrs. Lambiase found most of her energies as their adviser was helping them get over their biggest hurdle—embracing communication—so they could learn the value of collaboration. As the team dynamics developed the students became comfortable sharing their ideas, listening to others and recognizing who had the most creativity and leadership skills that would benefit the team as a whole. It was a slow evolution at first; sometimes it seemed to crawl as their communication skills required fine tuning. Eventually, the original two teams of five students combined to become one coherent team of ten, and at the eleventh hour—the Friday night before the competition—their momentum was unstoppable. As they arrived at the Saturday competition, the students had come prepared with their diorama and 1,500-word essay, feeling great pride in their efforts and their vision.
In preparing for this year’s event all the students in the competition were introduced to a simulation that helped them learn “what a city needs currently to keep the residents happy and how that infrastructure is deployed,” Mr. Goodman explained. This meant that the students had to examine not only the construction of their city plan but also explore the social engineering of the services such as sanitation, hospitals, educational systems and facilities, as well as open spaces.
Mrs. Lambiase recalled the challenge they faced at first. “How were we going to translate our team vision of using public space in an innovative way to build a three-dimensional model of our Future City?” She explained that “the team had to research technologies like carbon nanotubes, solar panels, vertical farming, and hydroelectric power before the model could begin to take shape. They needed to troubleshoot three-dimensional space and materials all staying under their hundred dollar budget. They conserved funds using recycled materials and utilized the 3-D printer to make trolleys and large billboard that stood in their public space as a community platform for graffiti.”
For the competition, the Sayville S.T.E.M. students had been required to submit their prepared essay and give a presentation to explain their solutions and services in detail during an interview with the panel of judges who specialized in different aspects of city planning. “It was at this moment that East Lambston [the name the students chose for their city in honor of their adviser] revealed their undeniable chemistry as a team.” Mrs. Lambiase added. “The delivery of their vision was not a string of facts but a story of their Future City. This magnificent moment was shared by family and school representatives in the room as we watched our team ripen with pride and joy as their journey came to an end.”
At the conclusion of the competition, the Sayville team was excited and honored to receive a special award for “Best Communication System” in their future city.
The irony of winning for best communication had not gone unnoticed to all involved with the S.T.E.M. team, especially Mrs. Lambiase. Not only had the students overcome their team’s greatest weakness, it became their greatest strength for which they were recognized in the competition.
Mrs. Lambiase was elated. “This was a magnificent evolution. Despite all the obstacles their camaraderie has grown. I cannot be more excited about what they have all learned in the process.”
Honest and open communication, at least for this generation of Sayville S.T.E.M. students, may indeed prove to be a wonderful way to shape the world.