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Smoketree students shine at Future City Competition

 Team Allied Realm - Alicia, Japen and Jake (not pictured)
Team Allied Realm - Alicia, Japen and Jake (not pictured)

For the third year in a row, students from Smoketree Elementary School competed at a regional level competition that showcased their engineering prowess.

In groups of 3 and 4, more than 25 Smoketree sixth graders went toe-to-toe against other students from nearly 40 schools across the state earlier this year in DiscoverE’s Future City Competition.

The competition is a project-based learning experience where students in grades sixth through eighth, research, design and build cities of the future with the goal of sustainability, addressing pollution, zoning issues and growth.

Although the Smoketree students did not go onto the nationals in Washington D.C. last month, it was recognized with the Arizona State University Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Award.

One of five schools to receive the award in Arizona, Smoketree was recognized for its students’ “innovative” solutions to designing sustainable societies.

This year’s competition theme, “The Age-Friendly City” encouraged students to design solutions that could serve an area’s aging population. Students were tasked to identify age-related issues and develop ways that allow seniors to remain active and independent.

“Our city was Allied Realm and our team set out to make it friendly for all ages,” said sixth grader Alicia. “Some of the things we focused on was health and mobility. It was fun, and it was also a new experience because we got to build things.”

With a group of headstrong teammates, Alicia said the challenge was being heard.

“The biggest thing for all of us was agreeing on things,” she added. “There were arguments on where things should go and what materials we should use, but we worked it out.”

Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, students were asked to address an authentic, real-world question: How can we make the world a better place?

For teammate Japen, the exchange of ideas was stimulating.

“It was fun expressing my ideas and knowing my idea could someday be a reality innovation,” he said.

For their project, Alicia, Japen and teammate Jake set out to improve the town of Trujillo, Venezuela with an economy in shambles and a disastrous infrastructure. With drug traffickers and illegal armed groups, the elderly have no hope for independence, safety and opportunities to thrive.

Under the direction of Smoketree teacher Fatima Mu, the students eagerly put in the work to overcome these limitations.

“They really got into the concept and wanted to make their city a better place,” Mu said. “So much so, they wanted to get their fingers dirty and start to build every day.”

Future Cities centers on concepts of engineering including construction, refining, redesigning and innovating.

“A lot can come from understanding the demands,” Mu said. “Change is accessible if you can identify the problems. My hope is that the kids recognized they can develop skill sets to achieve this goal.”

The national program is sponsored by DiscoverE which seeks to inspire and inform present and future generations to discover engineering. The network of volunteers in the U.S. and abroad is drawn from the DiscoverE coalition of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations, government agencies and institutions of high education.


(by David Louis, Today's News-Herald : Mar 5, 2018)

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