7th graders with a knack for urban planning

January 30, 2009 6:10:29 PM PST
You might think the 7th grade is too young to design and engineer the city of the future, but some girls in San Jose might change your mind. Their winning idea is on its way to a national competition.

These three seventh graders are not only best friends, they're tomorrow's urban planners.

"Each of our buildings, all of our buildings in our city are water, power and sewage independent," says entrant Sami Glenn.

Their future city is part of a national program to spark interest in engineering. The entry from Milpitas Christian School took top honors for Northern California. It gives new meaning to a BMW.

"BMWs... they stand for biomass waste vehicles -- that's because they run on the waste the zoo animals produce," says entrant Ishita Gupta.

Each future city must be built using less than $100 in materials. So the students get creative with everything from water bottles to empty creamer containers.

The real innovation though is in the ideas. This year's theme is conserving water.

"For our toilets, we use very little water because they're incinerator toilets, and so it sucks the waste underground to an incinerator," says entrant Lena Egbert.

The girls travel to Washington, D.C. next month to compete at the national level. Teacher Lidon Richards is hopeful.

"This is engineering at its best," says Richards.

From ultra-efficient solar cells to wind and wave power, a city set in the Fiji Islands is ready to live up to its name.

"And because we produce so much power in our city, we sell it to other neighboring cities and that's why our city is called Kyky Kaupunki, which actually means power city," says Glenn.

The judges are sure to notice some of the power is in the presentation.