New York - Capital Region

Regional Coordinator: Diane Bertok & Greg Skiba

The Capital District Future City Competition welcomes former NASA astronaut David Hilmers to the Capital District!!!

Albany, New YorkLocal 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students involved with the Future City Competition will have the unique opportunity to meet former NASA astronaut David Hilmers, MD, EE, MPH, MSEE on Thursday, October 15th from 3:30 pm – 5:30 pm at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center located off New Karner Road.  The students will have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Hilmers in small groups to learn about how waste is managed in space and to ask any questions they might have about being an astronaut and a medical doctor.

Students will also learn from the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center about our sustainable footprint on Earth and to tour the Discovery Center, a LEED gold certified facility. Middle school students will learn about and see first-hand many recycling options and about composting.  

Former NASA astronaut David Hilmers was selected as an astronaut in July 1980. He served in four missions and has logged over 493 hours in space. He served as mission specialist for STS-51-J Atlantis, STS-26 Discovery (which was the first mission flown after the Challenger accident); STS-36 Atlantis, and STS-42 Discovery. After retiring from NASA in 1992, Dr. Hilmers has been employed as an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Space Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. He has completed a great amount of international volunteer medical service and disaster relief work, including in Haiti after the earthquake and in Liberia most recently as the Chief Physician at an Ebola Treatment Unit. His research interests in nutrition include micronutrient deficiencies, food fortification programs, the influence of malnutrition on infectious diseases such as HIV and malaria, rickets, and metabolic syndrome. Prior to joining NASA he was a Marine Corps Colonel, aviator, and electrical engineer.

The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center is a visitor’s center to the nature preserve and offers educational programs to learn about the geologic and cultural significance of the landscape, as well as an opportunity to examine the plants and animals that live in the preserve. The Discovery Center building achieved LEED Gold certification on February 2010 following an extensive renovation. The building’s sustainable footprint includes:

  • A ground mounted solar array in the parking lot. From June 2011 to September 2008 it has produced 27,352 kWh. The solar panels have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide emissions by 46,355 pounds.
  • The remaining electrical power needed at the Discovery Center is purchased in the form of wind energy. The estimated environmental benefit is equivalent to planting over 600 acres of trees or not driving 1.6 million miles.
  • The outdoor restroom is a composting toilet system. In an underground storage tank, natural biological decomposition converts human waste into safe compost. Only 1/3 of a cup of water is used with every flush and more than 90% of the waste contributed is converted to water vapor and carbon dioxide gas.
  • During the construction of the Discovery Center, about 97% of the construction debris was recycled.

Every year, the Future City Competition introduces a theme, with an engineering problem that students are asked to solve. This year’s theme, Waste Not, Want Not, encourages students to design waste management systems for residential use and small businesses by looking at issues such as collection, separation, processing, recycling, health and safety, energy efficiency, environmental impact and cost. Students learn how today’s engineers and city planners deal with citywide sustainability issues like solid waste management. They research cutting edge technologies and imagine and design a plausible and futuristic solution that can exist for generations.

Local students will be touring the Sierra Processing Center on South Pearl Street in Albany on Saturday, October 24 to learn about recycling: what is recycled, how it is recycled, processes, and the impact on the environment. Students will also learn about the Colonie Landfill and how the landfill turns the waste into energy for the power plant onsite.

Teams from 37 regions present their ideas to solve this year's engineering problem at Regional Competitions in January. Winners represent their regions at the National Finals in Washington DC in February. The 2015-16 regional competition will be held on Saturday, January 9, 2016 at Proctor's Theater in Schenectady.  

Last year, there were a total of 22 schools and 25 teams, with a total of 200 local students, competing in the regional finals at Proctors Theater in Schenectady in January. The New Lebanon Jr/Sr High School won the 2014-15 Regional Capital District Future City Competition and represented our area at the national competition in Washington D.C. Other local finalists were: Richard H. O’Rourke Middle School (2nd place); Farnsworth Middle School (3rd place); Acadia Middle School (4th place); and Niskayuna (5th place).

About DiscoverE
DiscoverE is leading a growing volunteer movement that inspires and informs present and future generations to discover engineering. Our network of volunteers in the US and abroad is drawn from the DiscoverE coalition of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations and government agencies. Together we meet a vital need: introducing students, parents, and educators to engineering, engaging them in hands-on engineering experiences and making science and math relevant. For more information, visit

About Future City® Competition
DiscoverE’s annual Future City Competition, for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, is held from September 2015 through February 2016. Future City is a major program of DiscoverE, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations, and culminates every year during Engineers Week. This year Capital District Region celebrates participating in the program for 15 years! Visit the Capital District Future City website at:

For more information, contact:
Christine Kingery

Public Relations Chair, Future City Competition
Director of Marketing, Spectra Environmental Group
19 British American Blvd. | Latham, NY 12110
(518) 782-0882 |

Geena Pandolfi
Sayles & Winnikoff Communications
212-725-5200 x112