The competition challenges middle school students to design a city of the future with a focus on water conservation, reuse, and renewable energy. The students use the game SimCity (Deluxe 4) to help them build their three-dimensional models to scale. They have a semester to dream up and then construct their miniature cities entirely out of recycled materials. Supposedly, this inspires them to consider engineering as a profession.
Let's see what we get after all that creativity.
When it comes to the perfect place to live, [L.U.R.E., a sprawling metropolis set in southern New Mexico] would seem to have all bases covered.
School is free for everyone, brought into individual homes via a holographic teacher. Nearly everyone in town is gainfully employed as an engineer.
Mountain goat racing and sand surfing satisfy a yen for sports and leisure. And if, for no apparent reason, you need a getaway, there's the Space Shuttle Gilligan to whisk you on a four-month vacation to the moon...
L.U.R.E's coffee shop was housed in a Starbucks Frappuccino cup; office buildings were fashioned from paper towel rolls.
I'm sure there was some creativity is selecting a frappuccino cup as the coffee house building, but I'm wondering how that creativity generalizes to a domain outside of coffee cup miniature modeling. And try not to think about what the citiy's brothel was constructed from.
And what's up with the animal abuse? Enslaving our mountain goat brethen for our personal amusement seems a bit cruel. I'm surprised PETA didn't protest this event. Now that might have shown some real-world problem solving and creativity in how to defuse a PR nightmare without resorting to the firehoses.
I'm also wondering how many vacation goers would be willing to fly in the Space Shuttle. I'm guessing that the students hadn't heard of the Space Shuttle's propensity for blowing-up
unexpectedly. Hope they got insurance for that one.
At least the teacher hologram initiative shows creativity. Hologram's of a person trying to convey information or say, plans, to others is something I've never seen before. I wonder where they got that idea.
Look, I'm sure the kids had a lot of fun. But where's the educational value?
Here's what the kids were supposed to learn about:
The National Engineers Week Future City Competition offers students a resourceful way to learn about engineering.
- Learn how engineers turn ideas into reality.
- Develop a project plan to guide team activities.
- Use SimCity™ software to design their city.
- Build a city model using recycled materials.
- Work as a team under the guidance of an engineer and a teacher.
- Demonstrate writing skills by composing an essay on an engineering design problem.
- Enhance communications skills through a team presentation.
Did the students really learn how engineer's turn ideas into reality? Is a miniature model reality? If so, then isn't my kindergartner's pictures (media: crayons and construction paper) teaching her the same thing, just without the fancy labels?
This is not how engineer's turn an idea into reality. It doesn't seem to me that the students needed to know any actual engineering or any engineering constraints to construct their models. So, this is how a non-engineer turns ideas into reality. And, I'm not sure this exercise , in any way, generalizes to any real-world situation.
I suppose the kids did learn how to play SimCity. Videogames 101. That's what kids need -- more time playing videogames. I'm sure SimCity is a neat program, but it's not exactly a precursor to AutoCAD or other real-world construction/drafing programs.
And how does building a model out of recycled mterials generalize to building real stuff with recylced materials? Someone explain that to me.
The rest of it can be summarized as "learning how to work in a group." Something that our educators think students need a lot of practice doing for the real world. Apparently, lazy students need to refine their shirking skills from a young age and the more capable students need to understand the hell that awaits them in the real-world as they are expected to carry the load of the shirkers and share the credit.
All kidding aside, what does participation in this project actually teach that generalizes to anything else in a different domain? To the extent the students learned any generic creativity, explain how this creativity might generalize to a domain that requires knowledge in that domain without the student knowing that knowledge?