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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 27, 2011

Win second place in Future City Regionals
FMS students invent a prize-winning device to “print” organs and limbs

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Learning about engineering was expected as part of the Future City Competition, but the Farnsworth Middle School team had unexpected lessons in another culture.

One of the team members, Aviral Pandey, was born in India and the students chose to name their city after his native Allahabad. The city is thought to be the place where Brahma, after creating the world, offered his first sacrifice and is a site for Hindu pilgrimages.

“He didn’t push it on them,” said advisor Thomas McGreevy, a technology education teacher at Farnsworth. “It was a really nice bonus. The kids learned a lot about Indian culture.”

McGreevy said, for example, when the students were planning the riverfront for Allahabad 150 years in the future, “The kids thought of beaches and waterskiing.” The city is located at the confluence of the holy rivers, Ganges and Yamuna, and the ancient Sarasvati River. “Aviral told them, the rivers have religious significance and you wouldn’t use them for those types of things,” said McGreevy.

The Farnsworth team placed second against 21 other teams and also brought home three additional prizes — for best medical device, best model, and best presentation.

The middle-school students, starting in September, create cities using Sim City software and then build tabletop models, using recycled materials that cost not more than a hundred dollars. Students write essays about their cities and then explain and defend them before a panel of judges.

New Lebanon won first place on Saturday and will compete in the national finals in Washington, D.C. in February. Farnsworth, which has competed in all 10 years of the National Engineers’ Week Future City Competition, came in second in the nation in 2008.  Farnsworth won second place regionally last year, and first place regionally for the four years before that.

This year’s team was all new, except for one returning student, Brad McGuire. “Because they were new, they had a lot of different ideas,” said McGreevy. He said the team was “ecstatic” with the results, coming in second and winning three top prizes.

Richard Lasselle, a Farnsworth science teacher, advised the group with McGreevy, and engineering mentor Thomas Raber from General Electric Global Research helped, too. Additionally, three Guilderland High School students, each of whom had previously competed on the Farnsworth team — David Lasselle, Dan Sipzner, and Chris Raber — were mentors for the team and judges for the event.

“They were great,” said McGreevy of the high school mentors.

Three prizes

The challenge for this year was to provide an effective health-care product that would improve patients’ quality of life. The Farnsworth device that won the prize was a printer for body parts. The organ printer was based on existing inkjet and 3-D printers, said McGreevy.

“A 3-D printer allows industry to print parts just like you make prints,” he said, noting the Farnsworth invention would sample DNA from a patient’s body and then use it to program a computer to print a new organ or limb in three dimensions.

“Their model was technically excellent,” said McGreevy. describing some of the Farnsworth students’ innovations. Since they didn’t want the airport to take up too much space, they designed a device to catch the planes in the air and lower them on a platform that ran on hydraulic systems.

“All of the industries were located underground,” said McGreevy. And tunnels connected Allahabad to other cities “with supersonic speed,” he said. “The vibration from that generated electricity.”

The city’s other source of power came from a satellite that beamed microwaves from the sun. Solar collectors in space could be used 24 hours a day with no cloud cover, McGreevy said, noting all of these ideas were based on a lot of student research.

He concluded, “Our model was really held to a very close scale. If we asked how wide a road was, they knew it was 40 feet because it was one-inch wide and it was built to a scale of 40 feet to an inch.”

The three presenters — Sarah Jones as a bioengineer at the city hospital, Pandey as a city engineer, and McGuire as a visiting businessman considering a location in Allahabad — “did a fantastic job,” said McGreevy. “They’re brought into a room where they have to answer all sorts of questions — technical and not-so-technical — from engineers,” he said. “It was among the best I’ve seen,” he said of the presentation.

The students are already excited about next year’s Future City, McGreevy said.

“Students are stopping me in the hall to tell me they’re collecting junk for next year’s model,” he said. “They know what to expect next year,” he said, adding, “I don’t know if they could do better, though…This was a great team effort, a smash-up job.”

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