Kids compete to build the city of the future

(From left to right) Ashlyn Norris, Allison Poore, Bethany Craig, Callahan Figgs, Alex Bonebrake, Jacob Williams and Tim Peltier, students of Concordia Junior High, stand with thier model city "Myst" during the Great Plains Future City Competition at Rathbone Hall on Jan. 24, 2015. (George Walker | The Collegian)

Around the world, about 3 million children under the age of 5 die due to malnutrition every year, according to the health journal The Lancet. On Saturday, more than 350 children gathered on campus to offer their solutions to combat world hunger.

The College of Engineering hosted the Great Plains Future City Regional Competition at Rathbone Hall, where middle school students from Kansas, Missouri and Colorado were asked to build a future city that helps address problems facing society today.

This is the 11th year the regional competition has been held. This year’s contest theme was “Feeding Future Cities: Create a Futuristic Solution to Growing Crops in Urban Settings.” Jeff Sims, media coordinator for the event, said the winning team will travel to the national competition in Washington, D.C. in February.

“The competition has students solve engineering problems,” Sims said. “Urbanization is happening at a higher rate and there’s this need to grow more with less space.”

In 1950, an estimated 30 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas, compared to 54 percent in 2014, according to the United Nations. That number is expected to jump to 66 percent by 2050.

The students were tasked with finding ways to utilize city space to grow crops and find other means of feeding people within an urban landscape. Although “vertical farms” currently exist, the energy it takes to run them make them less efficient than traditional farming methods, according to a report by New Scientist.

Allison Poore, from Concordia Middle School in Concordia, Kansas, travelled with her team to present their city of Myst. She said the city uses tilapia fishing and grows brokali, a broccoli and kale hybrid that grows well in urban gardens.

“We’re self-sustaining,” Porre said. “Also, we have local rooftop gardens and vineyards that give our city different varieties of food.”

Concordia Middle School team member Bethany Craig said Myst also has a method of preserving food in case of emergencies.

“We freeze dry 15 percent of our food because we produce more than enough tilapia and brokali,” Craig said. “So we freeze dry them in case of a natural disaster.”

The Myst team took third place overall in the competition. This is the second year team member Tim Peltier was involved with the contest. Peltier said he was interested in the engineering aspects of the event.

“The first year I did it, it was just awesome,” Peltier said. “I learned so much about engineering and different technologies we could use to make the world better. I believe it could help people.”

The first place award went to Southwest Middle School in Lawrence, Kansas for their city “Blomstrende-Liv.” The team received an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals where they will compete with 36 other regional winning teams.

View the complete gallery of the event here: