Derby Goes to Washington

Derby Goes to Washington

After a resounding success at the New England Regional Future City Competition, Grade 6 students from Derby Academy headed to Washington, D.C. on February 17-23, 2023 to compete in the national Future City Finals.

On Saturday, January 21, 2023, 35 Grade 6 students from Derby Academy traveled to Boston to compete in the New England Regional Future City Competition hosted by the Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section. Accompanied by faculty members Kathleen Malone, Deb Lasala, and Jonathan Robin, student teams from the immensely popular cross-curricular Derby program, which has competed at a national level since 2019, placed both first and second in the regional competition, and received nine additional awards.

All Grade 6 students participate in Derby Academy’s Future City program, a cross-curricular STEM initiative, which asks students to imagine urban life 100 years in the future, innovate solutions to issues of sustainability and quality of life, and build a model that applies their vision. Future City is an international educational program, with over 45,000 Grades 6 through 8 students participating annually, that instructs students on how to use the Engineering Design Process and project management skills to address pressing issues of sustainability and, as a team, showcase their solutions through friendly competition.

Competing against over 20 teams from across New England, both virtually and in-person, at the Boston offices of consulting engineering firm AECOM, 1 Federal Street, Derby Academy students presented their models before a panel of judges composed of BSCES members and STEM professionals, to be scored on sustainability, energy use, transportation, water resource management, and population distribution. Competing teams, who have been working throughout the fall, were judged on their project plan, a 1,500-word essay, city model (using recycled materials and including at least one moveable part), a seven-minute presentation, and an oral defense of questions from the judges’ panel. The theme of this year’s competition is “addressing climate change,” with students asked to choose one impact and design an innovative solution focused on that issue.

Derby’s emphasis on public speaking as part of the educational experience was evidenced by the strength of their oral presentations and their ability to coherently and professionally answer the judge’s questions. Faculty advisor and Upper School Math Teacher Kathleen Malone: “Earning a spot at an engineering competition of this caliber as a sixth grader is quite an accomplishment. There will be teams from all across the nation - as well as international teams.  We are excited about their opportunity to connect with students from across the globe on a shared experience and interest in developing sustainable goals for our cities.”

Team “Perkons”, consisting of students Grae Guenther, Henry Stephens, and Madeline Stuart placed second overall. Isabelle Dwyer (Cohasset), Jack Murphy (Hingham), and Nadia Paris, came in first overall with “Nuevo Comienzo: Lima, Peru”, earning them a spot at the national Future Cities Finals in Washington, D.C. 

Derby teams additionally won awards for Most Innovative Use of a Recycled Material (“Kampala”), Best Architecture (“Last Hope”), Best Land Surveying Practices (“Last Hope”), Best Project Planning (“Kampala”), Best Water Management System (“Nuevo Comienzo: Lima, Peru”), Best Food Supply (“Perkons”), Best Transportation System (“New Beginnings: Lima, Peru”), Best Model (“Nuevo Comienzo: Lima, Peru”), as well as the Climate Change Challenge Award (“Perkons”).

Best Land Surveying Practices, won by “Last Hope”, consisting of Reeves Ambrecht, Dylan Cetrulo, Sierra Holmgren, and Cooper Stevens, is a national award sponsored by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying and carries a cash prize of $200, which faculty advisor and Middle and Upper School STEAM Specialist Jonathan Robin says the students donated back to BSCES for their continued support of the Future City Competition. The Best Model award, won by “Nuevo Comienzo: Lima, Peru”, Kathleen Malone emphasized, “is a big award. The essay, presentation, and model are the three most critical components when it comes to scoring points from the judges, so to win Best Model and first place over is an impressive accomplishment.”

“Kampala”, winner of Most Innovative Use of a Recycled Material and Best Project Planning, was the work of students Luke DeLaar, Cole Shevlin, and Kiley Kadzielski.

At nationals in Washington, 41 teams from all over the country (including two international teams from China) gathered at a hotel just steps away from the US Capitol to display their model cities. On Monday, for the final round, the team gave three presentations, each one consisting of:

  • 7-minute presentation to a judge panel of 3-5 industry 

            professionals including NASA engineers, 

  • 8-minute Q&A with the judges

  • 5-minute model inspections

Isabelle, Nadia, and Jack knocked each round out of the park! Their model, Nuevo Comienzo, represented a rebuilding of Lima, Peru after a large earthquake; their city was designed to address heat waves caused by release of carbon into the atmosphere. Their presentations were engaging and thorough and demonstrated deep understanding of a variety of engineering processes, climate change issues, and impressive city planning skills. 

One particular moment that brought joy to our educator hearts: in response to a question from the judge, each of our students spoke about ways their other courses - outside of engineering design - had impacted their understanding of the model and building a city. All three students had an answer on the tip of their tongues: 

  • Reading The Giver in English has taught us that everyone has a story and that "we can't erase the past, we can only learn from it and use it to solve problems and make a better future.  This is true for both helping build a diverse and inclusive community as well as issues of climate change."

  • Creating mock governments in History, including being a representative to the EPA, helped us find new ways to research the environmental needs of our city;

  • and our science teacher taught us how to solder metal together! 

Clearly, our cross-curricular efforts are having a true impact on students. Kudos to all the Grade 6 teachers! 

The majority of the teams at nationals were made up of eighth graders (we were the only all-sixth grade team) who take Future City as a daily class starting in September. Of the 41 teams, only 12 walked away with a formal award, with 70% of the teams not receiving any award.  However, one of the most thrilling moments of the weekend happened at the Final Award Presentation when the NASA Engineer who judged the competition referenced the inspiration she gleaned from our team’s presentation and our commitment to “learning something from the past to make the future better.” Inspiring a NASA engineer? We take that as a clear win. 

This trip would not have been nearly as meaningful or impactful without the guidance, care, and expert mentoring of Kathleen Malone and the inspiring sixth grade Engineering Design class led by Jonathan Robin and supported by Deb Lasala and Dale Harris. In a way that only students can do through their genuine presentation and brought tears to both Kathleen and Mary Beth’s eyes, Isabelle, Nadia, and Jack articulated the importance of their full Derby experience with all their teachers to their success and enjoyment throughout this process.