The Future City Competition is a hands on, get-it-done, figure-it-out project-based experience that empowers middle school students by putting them in the position to learn by doing. They stretch their minds like they may have never had to before and suddenly an entirely new world of possibility opens before them.
Recently, this inspiring, irrepressible spirit was in full display when 130 Future City Albany students, teachers and engineer mentors had the honor of meeting Dr. David Hilmers during a day of activities at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center. A NASA astronaut for 15 years, Dr. Hilmers is a former Marine and holds a Ph. D. in electrical engineering. Dr. Hilmers was introduced by New York State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who has been a great supporter of Albany’s Future City program.
Dr. Hilmers may have a resume well beyond that of the average person, but what probably impressed the student most is how warm and relatable he is. Dr. Hilmer’s achievements, combined with his easily accessible manner, opened the eyes of the students and encouraged them to dream big and aspire to greatness.
Mary-Beth Liles, a teacher from the New Lebanon Central School District, commented on how this relatability helped Dr. Hilmers capture the children’s imaginations.
“Dr. Hilmers is from a small, rural Midwest town,” she observed. “He told us when he was young, he wasn’t sure that it was possible for him to achieve what he has. That really resonated with my students, since they are from a small, rural town as well. This applies to directly to Future City, which opens opportunities for kids to see what is happening in the real world. Our Future City students are now more convinced than ever more that they too can ‘aim high and reach for the stars.’”
Dr. Hilmers spoke to the students about life on the International Space Station and specifically pointed out how the view from space enables astronauts to vividly see the damage humans have done to Planet Earth, such as the incredible diminishing effects on the polar ice cap
“Dr. Hilmers is a humanitarian who has dedicated himself to new opportunities,” added Jen Smith, Future City Regional Coordinator for the Albany region. “He inspired our students to achieve a solid foundation in STEM—steps that will prepare them for their future careers. Most importantly, Dr. Hilmers inspired our students to take care of their community, environment, and each other.”