McSwain students have award-winning vision of future cities – Merced Sun

Hannah Thibault, Amanda and Andrew Skidmore are forward thinkers.

The McSwain School eighth-graders are learning that their imagination is a gift to be cultivated and can produce rewards both now and later.

The three students placed second in a Future City competition sponsored by a national engineering society, and they finished first in city planning and livability elements. Forty-four teams initially entered the event, with the final 17 teams competing for honors at the University of California at Davis.

The mythical city they created, SeaSun Harbor, is set 150 years from now. It’s a floating city of 50,000 people that is carried by ocean currents on a wide arc around the Hawaiian islands.

Andrew Skidmore, 13, wants to become a biomechanical engineer. Like his two 13-year-old counterparts, he wants to enter Buhach Colony High School’s Engineering Academy.

“Anything can exist in the future,” Skidmore said. “I want to encourage others to think outside the box, at what’s logical and illogical. The future is tomorrow.”

His sister Amanda also is considering the engineering field but also would like to be an agricultural lawyer and believes in protecting farmers’ rights.

“Future possibilities are limited only by imagination,” Amanda Skidmore said. “This (contest) inspires our imagination to think out of the box.”

Thibault comes by her engineering inclination naturally. Her father, Mike, is a mechanical engineer with Pacific Gas Electric Co., and her mother, Samantha, is an ATT electrical engineer.

She says technology builds on itself. Thibault is recruiting other students to take their places for next year’s Future City competition. She said several students are considering entering but haven’t committed to it yet.

Thibault and the Skidmore siblings created SeaSun Harbor and a miniature model of the city, along with writing lengthy essays and giving a brief verbal presentation.

The pontoons that carry the hypothetical metropolis contain hydrogen gas. Other innovations include hyperbaric treatments for scuba divers, an aquaculture farm, a teaching hospital, an underwater amusement park, and artificial reef and the world’s largest water slide. The city’s main food sources are grown hydroponically.

Leslie Reschenberg, McSwain School’s art teacher and the teens’ adviser, said the students know technology inside and out.

“They just dream and aren’t bounded by reality yet,” Reschenberg said. “I’m proud of them; they’re bright kids.”

Andrew Skidmore said he thinks about today’s technology and the how and why of what makes things work. His sister said the team couldn’t be too far-fetched with their Future City concepts. A team of professional engineers evaluated their work and interviewed them during the UC Davis event.

Thibault said it was fun laying out the city. Andrew Skidmore said it took 30 hours to design SeaSun Harbor on the computer. The virtual city exercise required addressing such issues as traffic, zoning, crime, education, parks, water, garbage and power.

The students’ model cost $100 and was made from recycled products. Thibault said the most expensive part was the wood, complemented by paper drinking cups, nut jars and yogurt containers.

“It was a great learning experience,” Andrew Skidmore said. “We learned about each other and improved our writing skills.”

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or is pleased to be able to offer its users the opportunity to make comments and hold conversations online. However, the interactive nature of the internet makes it impracticable for our staff to monitor each and every posting.

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