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West Vancouver schools join students from coast to coast to create resilient electrical grids of the future


Each year, over 40,000 students around the world research, imagine, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a particular sustainability and engineering challenge. 

Joining them for the first time this year are close to 500 students from West Vancouver, who are designing an electrical grid that can withstand and quickly recover from the impact of a natural disaster. 

This year’s Future City Competition asks students in grades 6, 7, and 8 to solve climate-related challenges to the electrical grid. In its 27th year, the Future City Competition is a program of DiscoverE, and was brought to Canadian classrooms for the first time two years ago by Engineers Canada. The District of West Vancouver is participating for the first time this year, joining schools from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, the Durham District School Board, and the Durham District Catholic School Board, who are competing again this year.  

“In the last few years, my school district of West Vancouver has spent a lot of time on applied skills and the design process,” says Tricia Yurkowski, Vice-Principal at Westcot Elementary School, who first learned of the Future City program after reading an article in the Globe and Mail that featured students from P.E.I. and Ontario. “This program builds on students’ knowledge and makes so much of the curriculum relevant and engaging for students.” 

With the school year well underway, the Future City program is already in full swing for West Vancouver teachers and students, Yurkowski describes. 

“The students have been working hard to learn all about engineering, urbanization, electricity, energy sources, earthquake resistant buildings, smart power grids, and more! We have been lucky to have volunteer engineers come and work with us to help us understand the many roles engineers play in our cities. Almost all classes in our district had a specially designed workshop for UBC’s Geering Up Engineering and Science for Kids, to help the students understand electricity and grids.” 

In the coming weeks, West Vancouver students will be starting to apply the skills and knowledge that they’ve learned from these activities as they start to design—and build—their very own resilient cities of the future. Likewise hundreds of students in Durham, ON, and P.E.I., are in the process of learning about engineering resilient electrical grids, and building their own models of future cities. 

Come January, students will have designed their city using SimCityTM software, explained their design and their sustainable solutions in a 1,500-word essay, and built a scale model of their city with recycled materials. At regional competitions in January, student teams will present their city models to panels of judges made up of STEM professionals.  

Yurkowski explains that she’s very pleased with the response she’s seen from participating West Vancouver teachers and students thus far. Participating teachers have collaborated with each other, even creating their own Google Classroom and webpage to share ideas outside of official meetings times. Meanwhile, students are enthusiastic to start applying their knowledge and create projects to demonstrate what they’ve learned.  

“This level of enthusiasm is very exciting for our pilot year!”