Farnsworth students design a green utopia, win top Future City prize

— Photo from Future City Competition

The Dutchman Ducks celebrate being named grand prize winners on Feb. 20 at the Future City Competition in Washington, D.C.

GUILDERLAND — Work that started last October at Farnsworth Middle School culminated in Washington, D.C. this week with the students from Farnsworth winning the grand prize at the international DiscoverE 2024 Future City Competition.

The Dutchman Ducks, as the team named itself, won a trip to the United States Space Camp and $7,500 for the school’s STEM — science, technology, engineering, math — program.

Each year, Future City designates a theme and a challenge for the competitions; this year’s theme was “electrify your future” and the challenge was to design a city powered entirely by electricity that uses clean energy sources.

Over 60,000 students from 1,800 schools in 37 U.S. regions as well as global teams from Canada and China participated this year. The Farnsworth team qualified for the international competition in January when it won first place in a regional competition as it had the year before.

The 20-student Farnsworth team created He Hika, a city located on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand, which uses hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and hydrogen as energy sources.

Able to spend only $100, the students built their model of recycled materials. Eco-domes were used as agricultural zones to feed residents, with each dome divided into six sections. The domes are monitored by artificial intelligence to grow crops that are not native to the area, while ensuring all food gets the nutrients it needs.

The city also contains a gondola, created with a pulley system and motors, and an electromagnetic train, crafted from copper wire, a battery, and magnets. He Hika features funnel residential buildings that incorporate communal gardens for all residents and a building named for each member of the Farnsworth team.

Those members are: Om Bhagat, Anika Bhupati, Jackie Emans, Levi Hawrylchak, Justin Jian, Brian Jiang, Dhruv Kalapala, Jackson Kearney, Aadya Mavuleti, Shlok Prabhushettar, Vachan Prabhushettar, Cooper Radler, Darshana Saravanakumar, Andrew Smith, Akshit Thindi, Natalie Tucker, Frederick Wolfe, Niko Wood-Irvin, Aditshiva Yalla, and Rohan Yerram.

The students, as required by the competition, created four project plans, wrote an essay and a script. In December, they voted to select three members who would represent the team and lead the presentation at the competition: Anika Bhupati, Levi Hawrylchak, and Darshana Saravanakumar.

These representatives presented the script, which described He Hika, and went through an eight-minute question-and-answer session conducted by judges. As part of their overall project presentation in January, the Farnsworth team invited two guest speakers from the town of Guilderland to discuss zoning practices.

Rebecca Been and Kelly Werner advised the Dutchman Ducks while Nancy Behrens served as a teacher mentor and Jennifer Smith of Plug Power served as an engineer mentor.

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