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Middle school students engineer the future

Post Independent/Kelley Cox Members of the Garden School science group include, top row from left, teacher Kaaren Peck, Anna Komula, Becca Tanner and mentor engineer Jim Hancock, and bottom row, Jenna Talbott and Reid Miller.
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NEW CASTLE – If you were to design a city 100 to 300 years in the future, what would it look like and how would it operate?That was the project that won two Garden School Classical Christian Academy students in New Castle a first-place award and three Glenwood Middle School students a third-place standing.Both teams placed in the National Engineers Week Future Cities competition in Denver on Jan. 29. The Garden School team headed off to Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Feb. 18, to continue in the nationwide competition. The trip is courtesy of the National Engineers Week Committee.The national competition involves 37 teams from around the country who placed first in their region, with the Garden School team representing western Colorado.Winners Reid Miller and Rebecca Tanner, both 13 and eighth-grade students at the Garden School, created their project using a geothermal power source for their city and biofuel for their electricity.

“We came up with the power idea using a geothermal power source, which is a closed system,” Miller said. “It was a new idea that hadn’t been done before. I think we probably won because it was one of the most original projects.”The students had to create their cities on a computer using the SimCity software program, then spent months making a physical model out of recycled materials, followed by a 5-7 minute presentation to a group of professional engineers explaining why their city worked.Miller and Tanner’s team was assisted by Jim Hancock, engineer for the town of Gypsum. Hancock volunteered his time and accompanied the team to D.C.Their science teacher, Kaaren Peck, oversaw the project.”It’s about teamwork, but it’s so multi-faceted,” Peck said. “They used the computer and made models using recycled materials. But the biggest focus is that they have to give a presentation and get grilled by the judges, who are engineers, and articulate scientifically correct answers.”This is the fourth year the Garden School has competed in the Future Cities competition, having taken two second places and a third in the past.

Another Garden School team, comprised of Jenna Talbott and Anna Komula, both 13-year-old seventh-grade students, took the “People’s Choice” and “Most Innovative Use of Materials” awards in the statewide Denver competition.”Our city was judged by all the people watching the competition, except the judges,” Talbott said. Talbott and Komula created an “aqua urban” city that is entirely based on water, with half of the city built under water.”It uses wave energy,” Talbott explained. “One day we came up with the idea because we thought of Venice (Italy) and the canals, so we thought an underwater city would be really cool.”Glenwood Middle School eighth-grade students Risa Wampler, Heather Boronski and Cailey Arensman, all 13, took third place in the competition under the direction of computer skills teacher Roark Roney and volunteer engineer Bob Pattillo, of Pattillo Associates Engineers Inc. in Glenwood Springs. It was the first time the school had entered the competition.



“We were very pleased,” Roney said. “They really grew in their ability to work together and solve problems.”The Glenwood team based their city 300 years in the future using only solar energy.”Our transportation runs on a magnetic levitation system like what is used in trains in Japan and Germany,” Arensman said. “We’ve advanced it to cars where the operator just punches in where they want to go.”Finalists in Washington, D.C., are competing for a trip to the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and cash prizes of $1,000 to $2,000. Winners will be announced this week.The Garden School was founded by David and Renee Miller, of New Castle.”(Future Cities) is a very intense project,” said Renee Miller. “It involves teachers, parents and the community.”


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