Today's dreams, tomorrow's cities

The seventh annual Future Cities Competition is under way, and this year, the competition, with the topic of nanotechnology and infrastructure monitoring, is being sponsored locally by the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University of Albany.

The proximity to this leader in the nanotechnology field could give Capital District competitors an edge.

We are very fortunate to have the leading nanotechnology facility in the world located right here in the Capital District. The tutorial program planned by CNSE will provide the program's participants with a unique hands-on experience with the possibilities of nanotechnology, Jennifer Smith, Future City's regional coordinator said.

Each year, there is a new topic in the engineering field that students must tackle. In light of the bridge that collapsed recently in Minnesota, this year's focus is on monitoring a city's infrastructure using nanotechnology.

Participants first have to do research on their topic, then design a city using the computer program SimCity, write an essay describing their design and finally present their findings in competition at the close of the contest -- not an easy task for any seventh or eighth grader. Each team is granted a coach, usually a teacher or member of the school community, and an engineering mentor.

The coach for the Shenendehowa Middle School team is technology teacher Paul Whitley, who spent 35 years with GE prior to becoming a teacher. He said that it's his interest and past that drew him to the competition, but the kids are the key.

"These kids are the best of the best. They have strong math backgrounds, either in advanced math or doing very well in their regular math classes," he said.

Members of the Shen team, Tommy Trahn, Tejas Roysam, Bilal Salam and Timothy Saia, recently discussed their involvement and work on the project so far and what they expect in the coming months.

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