Jan. 23, 2019
Fort Couch advances to national Future City Competition
A team of Fort Couch Middle School students placed first in the 2019 Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition – punching their ticket to compete at the national Future City Competition on Feb. 16-20, 2019, in Washington, D.C.
This year marked Fort Couch’s 19th year in the competition and the first time taking home the gold.
“We’ve come in second a couple of times, but never won. Generally, the winning team has been a private school,” Jason O’Roark, Fort Couch gifted education teacher and Future City coach, said. “Seeing our students’ excitement in winning the competition was awesome.”
The regional event was held on Jan. 19, 2019, at Carnegie Science Center. The Fort Couch team’s presentation was led by eighth graders Carter Chui and Ella Elkoni and seventh grader Reese Copenhaver.
“This is truly a multidisciplinary project,” Mr. O’Roark said. “Students learned about engineering, researching, writing, presenting, collaborating as a team, making compromises and many other skills that transcend both the academic and career worlds.”
In addition to first place overall, the Fort Couch team earned three special awards including Best Essay, sponsored by the Carnegie Science Center; Protecting the Public’s Safety and Welfare Through Competent and Ethical Engineering Practices, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers; and 19-Year Anniversary School, presented by the Carnegie Science Center and Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania and the Carnegie Science Center.
Future City is a national, project-based learning experience where students in grades 6, 7 and 8 imagine, design and build cities of the future that offer solutions to sustainability issues. Previous issues included storm water management, urban agriculture and green energy. This year’s theme – Powering the Future – focused on creating a resilient power grid so that the city could withstand natural disasters and tragedies like what recently happened in Puerto Rico could be avoided.
A team of more than 35 Fort Couch gifted students worked throughout the fall to transform the current city of New Orleans into Parcequetrina (French for “because of Katrina”), existing 100 years in the future.
“Our students researched current cutting-edge technologies and then extrapolated them 100 years into the future,” Mr. O’Roark said. “They created a virtual city, wrote an essay, created illustrations, built a two-foot-by-four-foot model, wrote a seven-minute presentation and delivered it beautifully at the competition.”
The students designed all aspects of Parcequetrina, from education, to government, transportation, health care, safety and waste management, while assuring that the city would survive a hurricane and, in particular, not lose power.
“This theme is illustrated throughout the city from simple things like cylindrical buildings that are more aerodynamic to clear solar panels utilizing quantum dots.” Mr. O’Roark said.
The city combines two kinds of wave energy converters, clear solar panel windows and piezo electric film to create a network of micro-grids that are connected by redundant HVDC lines.
“This virtually assures that no building will ever be completely without power,” Mr. O’Roark added. “For added security, the city’s A.I. controlled electric transportation pods go to places with vulnerable populations, like a hospital, and plug in providing backup power in a disaster.”
For the next few weeks, the Fort Couch Middle School will prepare to take Parcequetrina to the national competition, where the first place teams from each of the 60 regions compete for the Future City Competition’s top prize.