AIKEN, S.C. – Forty-three teams of middle school students from across South Carolina built large, complex tabletop models of cities with clean, safe drinking water systems for the recent Future City Regional Competition, as part of an education outreach program managed by an EM contractor at the Savannah River Site (SRS).
“This competition really opened up my mind because I was so surprised by everything engineers do,” said Hailey Meteraud, an eighth-grader at Merriwether Middle School in North Augusta, South Carolina. “All our research showed just how much work is accomplished by engineers, especially nuclear engineering at SRS. And since all of this really interests me, I’ve decided to be an engineer.”
Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) employees have managed the local competition for 17 years in partnership with DOE and the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center at the University of South Carolina Aiken. The students participate with 1,500 schools in 39 U.S. regions.
Twenty-nine special awards were presented to select teams in the local competition this year. The first-, second-, and third-place winners were announced after guest judges examined the models and quizzed team members at the daylong event held at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
“Keep in mind that this is definitely not your typical school project,” said Taylor Rice, Future City regional coordinator and SRNS employee. “The students work for months using the engineering design process and project management skills to address solutions to this year’s challenge.”
The top team — from Merriwether Middle School — received an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C., Feb. 15-19.
Each year, Future City student teams are presented new design challenges, encouraging interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. This year, they were asked to create a system to maintain a reliable supply of clean drinking water in the “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow” challenge.
Merriwether Middle School eighth-grader Marisa Wetzel said she enjoys the teamwork and public speaking aspects of this annual competition.
“I’ve never talked in front of a lot of people before. It’s been very helpful,” Wetzel said.