Chisholm Trail A-STEM club places 2nd at 'Future City' contest

chisholm-trail-futurecity-fiPlanning an urban agriculture system for a future city of 84,000 people only took a month for the Chisholm Trail Middle School Advanced Science Technology Engineering and Math club to complete, and they hope they won’t need to use the model any time soon.

The group of 15 students created the city plan for the January 17 regional Future City Competition and earned second place. According to the organization, the Future City Competition is a national project-based learning experience where middle school students imagine, design and build cities of the future.

This year’s theme, “Feeding Future Cities,” tasked the teams to create an urban agriculture process to feed residents within the city limits. The Chisholm Trail team competed against 12 other Central Texas student groups.

“We did an amazing job, considering it was the first time we competed,” said Christina Villarreal, Chisholm Trail engineering teacher and A-STEM club sponsor. “The team applied their engineering, design and team building skills in order to accomplish this within a month.”

The team used the engineering design process for the project, which consists of defining the problem, brainstorming, researching and developing a prototype. Since the problem was growing enough food to feed 84,000 people, the team decided to create growing facilities at the outermost areas of the city.

“They’re basically glass pyramids. Two of the faces have solar panels that produce energy,” said Aditya Sreenivasan, eighth-grade A-STEM member. “Inside, it acts like a greenhouse with two layers that rotate to get sunlight.”

The official project required many parts, including a model built with recycled materials and a virtual model using SIM City, a computer program for designing community’s and cities. Three students in the club presented the project and answered questions in front of a jury of professional engineers, architects and designers.

The A-STEM club at Chisholm Trail is open to any student who wants to learn more about engineering, take part in hands-on STEM projects much like the Future City Competition, or even work with fellow students on a variety of skills.

“The project was really cool because even if you don’t necessarily like engineering, there’s a bunch of other stuff that you can do,” said Arya Saksena, eighth-grade A-STEM club member. “It’s a very diverse group of interests that are all incorporated into one theme.”