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West Ridge Middle School Future City team

L-R: Dean Schneider (Central Texas Future City Judging Coordinator), Ben Gorr (who acted as City Mayor), Zac Frost, Carol Reese (Teacher), Selina Eshraghi (who acted as City Civil Engineer), Nicky Truong (who acted as Chief Medical Officer), Brandon Li, Aneesh Durg and ME Ph.D. student Andrew Reich (Engineer Mentor).

A team of students from West Ridge Middle School in Austin were awarded the first place trophy in the Central Texas Region Future City Competition on Saturday January 15th. Andrew Reich, a current Ph.D. student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, volunteers as the team's engineer mentor.

The National Engineers' Week Future City Competition, now in its 19th year, is a country-wide program developed to expose sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students to the value of engineering as a thought process and a profession. It provides a fun and exciting educational experience that combines a stimulating engineering problem with hands-on application. Students are challenged to collaborate with their engineering mentor to create a futuristic, yet practical, vision of the city of tomorrow. The competition seeks to foster core engineering skills, such as teamwork, communication, and problem solving, and aims to inspire students to explore careers in engineering.

The West Ridge team constructed a scale model of their city "Sana," which features a three-tiered pyramid-shaped central structure, a unique water filtration system, hydroponic farming, and a diverse, environmentally sustainable energy system. As part of this year's focus on future health care systems, the team members also conceived of a system of inhaled "nano-bots" to combat leukemia. The team presented their city to a panel of professional engineers, who scored them on the degree of creativity, resourcefulness, feasibility, and understanding demonstrated.

As engineering mentor, Andrew volunteered with the team after school during the fall semester. He introduced the team to the fundamental engineering problem solving process by helping them to identify and define the basic problems in their city, develop practical solutions, and compare each to select the best option. Andrew also helped the students to better understand the sub-disciplines of engineering, and how each related to the design of their city.

The Central Texas Regional competition, now in its second year, is sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Central Texas Section and the San Antonio Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The West Ridge team was awarded 1st place among a field of 21 entrants from across the state. As the first place winners, the team will travel to Washington D.C. in February to compete with other regional winners from across the country.

Andrew Reich's Biography

Andrew is a student in the Dynamic Systems & Controls group in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. He has previously conducted research on wind turbine vibration and wave tank calibration. At The University of Texas at Austin, he hopes to develop new techniques to optimally control offshore wind turbine arrays with the goal of reducing maintenance costs while maximizing energy capture.

Andrew received his bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and his master's degree in sustainable energy systems from the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland. He began his current studies at The University of Texas at Austin in the fall of 2010.

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