Aarti Patel, a precocious rising seventh-grader at MS 67 in Queens gestured to the Lego city laid out before her.
“It’s mostly powered by solar, but it’s backed up by hydro power,” she explained.
Patel was one of about 40 students from New York’s outer boroughs manning booths at the Science of Smart Cities Expo last week, an event that capped off a four-week summer program from the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s Center for K12 STEM Education.
“We included stuff we learned about from all four weeks,” Aartie continued, pointing again to the city she helped construct. “We decided to have an industrial zone in it so things are cheaper since they’re made there. There are no cars allowed in the central area of the city, so that’ll reduce traffic and allow buses and trains to flow above ground rather than below ground.”
The NYU Poly program consisted of four subjects (energy, urban infrastructure, transportation and wireless communications) taught to the middle schoolers by engineering undergrads and graduate students. The younger students spent the final week building models of a model city.
The goal: use science to make cities smarter.
“My little creation is the sunflower robot,” Te’Essence Norris, a rising seventh-grader at Bedford Stuyvesant Collegiate Charter School, in Brooklyn, said, holding a light to a small gadget with two things that looked like insect feelers coming out of it.
“What it does,” Norris continued, “is when it’s subjected to lighting, it acts like a sunflower, ’cause the photoresistors move in the direction of the light.”
And they did.
“We take kids who maybe don’t have good access to STEM in their schools,” said Dominick Dennisur, a project manager for the Center for K12 STEM Education and a 2012 NYU Poly graduate. “They are taught simple concepts like using the natural resources we have to create energy and utilize it in a sustainable way that does not cause any harmful things to the environment.”
Parents seemed to be wowed and proud by the things their brainy progeny had created over the month.
“I like it,” Te’Essence’s mom Tihisha Newton said of the program. “It kind of helped her marry science and math together. Science is her favorite subject. It’s good experience for what type of careers she might possibly have. And it was a free program. You can’t beat it.”