Some New York middle-schoolers spent their summer vacation building models of smart cities, complete with futuristic cars and clean energy infrastructure. The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering Science of Smart Cities program held its fourth annual expo last Friday, where the children showed off their designs. During their four-week training with NYU engineering students, participants learned about engineering aspects of sustainable and resilient cities.
The students started with simple experiments with balloons and string but quickly moved on to building working solar chargers and generators from scratch. In a week about infrastructure, they experimented with better ways to build landfills. Another week, they built model cars with automatic braking and lane detection.
The students were challenged to approach problems in a way that rivals what municipal governments and planners are currently doing.
“We were thinking about smart cities, which means cities that can be efficient and safe,” Devon Allen, a participant who will be entering the eighth grade this fall, told Fast Company. “And looking around, New York isn’t really yet.”
To help the students prepare for the Expo, they received 10 hours of training in public speaking, improvisation and communication skills from members of a theater group, The Irondale Ensemble Project. (Credit: NYU)
Allen will be happy to know that New York is taking steps to get smarter. Last spring, the city launched Council 2.0 to improve government transparency and civic engagement.
Summer programs like this one are cropping up in cities across the U.S., to get children excited about STEM subjects. Many of the 47 students at Science of Smart Cities left feeling science-empowered.
“SoSC introduced me to the field of STEM, so I was more conscientious about what’s going on in the world regarding STEM,” one of the participants said. “It allowed me to further my STEM education and know more about it.”
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.