Our fantastic client, the City of San Antonio, has just launched a new challenge that invites middle and high school students to have their say on the city’s smart future. In tandem with local STEM initiatives and NFPs, the office of Mayor Ron Nirenberg has announced the K-12 Smart City Challenge, where students are asked to devise innovative smart solutions to the environment issues that the City faces regularly. While it’s currently in its earliest stages, the K-12 Smart City Challenge is looking to become a key pathway for empowering the City’s young people while also helping San Antonio take their smart city initiatives to the next level.
In the Challenge, student groups and their guiding teacher (or other responsible adult) are given a range of specific environmental issues currently affecting San Antonio’s land, air, water, parks, or general energy consumption. From there, they devise a potential solution, submit it to the Challenge’s committee, and finally represent their school in presenting their solution at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology’s Mayor’s Cup Competition Day.
According to an Express News interview, the competition does more than just encourage creative problem solving – it also integrates the academic requirements set by the Texas Education Agency for high school principles of applied engineering. "The skills this competition teaches are going to make my students successful in all that they do, whatever they do," says Tracy Thomas, a teacher at the Space and Engineering Technologies Academy.
The Mayor’s Cup Competition Day, as well as the K-12 Challenge, are part of San Antonio’s SA Tomorrow Plan, which Mayor Nirenberg describes on the SA Smart website as a blueprint for sustainable growth – he also emphasises the importance of these young minds in the process. "We can't solve a global issue right now, but let's see how to effectively use data in the city and resources that are available for that," K-12 Challenge planning committee member Steffi Ockenfels told Express News.
The competition was built not only to provide STEM learning opportunities to students, but also to understand and take full ownership of their environment, their impact, and the ways they can change the current reality. Building an environmentally-conscious citizenry takes active input from community leaders, and we believe this needs to begin from a young age – exactly the way San Antonio is doing. Mayor Nirenberg and his team are creating a better future for their city, one where cleaner spaces, accessible opportunities, and healthier residents are the norm, and for that we applaud them.
With organisations, residents, companies, and government agencies all participating, the K-12 Challenge is a collective effort aimed at benefiting all facets of environmental and social life in San Antonio. We here at NoiseNet are proud to be affiliated with a city that takes such a forward-thinking stance on their environmental impact, and we’re very excited to see the kind of projects that the students of San Antonio will present at the final event in May.