For Park City Day School students, a bright future lies ahead
It’s often said that the current generation of students is the one that will be tasked with staring down the problems of the future.
Well, it’s never too early to start solving them.
A team of four seventh-graders from Park City Day School participated last month in the Future City Competition, held in Boise, Idaho. Since October, the students — Dylan Millard, Kate Parker, Colter Frey and Bridget McAree — had been designing a future city that incorporates the competition’s theme of "Waste Not, Want Not."
The city they came up with, called Aquatin, is underwater and features trains that reach the city through tubes, is powered by tidal energy and uses a process called Pyrolysis to turn solid waste into oil the city can then sell. For their work, the students won the competition’s Best Innovative Solution for Small Communities Award.
Jessie Levesque, the communications teacher at the school who helped the students with the writing part of their project, said that designing the city was a valuable experience for the seventh-graders.
"It’s really great to have them work on a project that has so many different elements, as far as building something and writing about it and learning the science behind it," she said. "It makes them work hard and appreciate the work they’re putting in much more than having them read a textbook or fill out a worksheet."
Charlotte Friedman, a science teacher who led the student’s project, added that the students learned a number of skills, including critical thinking and problem-solving.
"It was a really authentic experience because they’re working on a real-world problem that cities are facing now and will have to deal with in the future," she said. "It’s very important because these are skills they’ll be using throughout their lives, no matter what career they choose. I think it helps them be more confident in themselves."
For their part, the students insisted that they had a blast designing the city. Millard said the best part was learning about several interesting technologies that they eventually incorporated into Aquatin.
"For example, Pyrolysis, which turns trash into oil," he said. "That was very cool because we didn’t know anything about it. We learned a lot of new stuff for the project."
Added Frey: "It was fun to brainstorm and learn all these new things. It was cool to figure out what happens if there’s a fire or how to deal with pollution."
Above everything else, Levensque said, the students showed "resilience and grit" to perfect the city and show it off for the competition’s judges.
"They didn’t nail everything on the first try," she said. "And you know you’ve stumbled onto a good project when they leave class and are still talking about it in another class. They were really invested in it."
A Park City student’s desire to reduce plastic waste led to engineering a new set of utensils, the Sporknife.