MODESTO — The future looks bright for 10 intrepid Girl Scouts who took up the challenge of diverting storm water and won. Thursday, they fly to Washington, D.C., to compete again.
Before they go, the sixth- through eighth-graders need to sell a lot of cookies, said Troop 2225 leader Lori Dexter.
The girls voted to send nine troop members and their moms to the event. At a troop profit of 70 cents each, that pencils out to 28,572 boxes of Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties and other cookies to finance the trip.
The north Modesto troop will represent Northern California in the national Future City engineering contest, the first nonschool group to do so. It was a project all the girls could work on together, Dexter said.
The team's three presenters did a trial run Wednesday in front of the Modesto Engineers Club, saying later that questions posed by the pros were no sweat after the regional judges.
"Really easier," said Katrina Fitzpatrick, an eighth-grader at Prescott Senior Elementary School.
"Those (regional) questions were just all over," said Kristyn Dexter, a sixth-grader at Dieterich Elementary School.
"Just insane stuff," said Kiana Engel, a seventh-grader at Big Valley Grace Christian School, shaking her head.
Talking in rapid-fire succession, the three answered questions interchangeably, often finishing one another's sentences. That's typical, they laughed. They've been practicing their seven-minute pass-around speech for months.
For the one question that did stump them, on population density, they used nonengineering skills they've acquired: Smile sweetly and guess with confidence.
"You have to say something that is close and maybe they'll buy it," Kristyn said.
After lots of coaching, the girls said, they can roll with the tough ones.
"Now we can really go on the spot, like improv," Kiana said.
Their well-polished speech explains storm runoff management in Vintage Grove, a valley city of the future where farms rise in layers, water filters underground, grass grows on roofs and people ride in electric orbs that link up in mass-transit chains.
Cheap, clean energy from solar, wind and biomass sources keeps quality of life high and taxes low. Rainwater recycles through filters to water fields through the hot summers.
In their to-scale model, farms are made of clear plastic cups, white Tic-Tacs with black dots graze at dairies, and a beaded-box factory produces tasty Girl Scout products. The girls call their utopian town "the land of milk and cookies."
They worked with storm water runoff expert John Paoluccio, a mechanical engineer, and civil engineer Evangelina Paoluccio to test their theories and hone their presentation. The Paoluccios and the troop took field trips to a pervious parking lot and a field in a storm to watch how water pooled and drained from different surfaces.
"A lot of these things they've never thought about," John Paoluccio said. "But they'll never look at a raindrop the same again."
As the girls' grasp of water mechanics widened, so did their vocabularies.
Words such as "swales" (ditches running alongside roads), "pervious" (rainwater runs through) and "torification" (firing without oxygen) are part of their lexicon. Confidence is part of their posture. Science and environmental awareness are part of their lives.
"Whenever I see a closed-up storm main overflowing, I think, well, they did not use the best water-management practices," Kiana announced with conviction.
She looked at her friends for a beat, then all three burst out in giggles.
Katrina Fitzpatrick, eighth grade, Prescott Senior Elementary School
Kristyn Dexter, sixth, Dieterich Elementary School
Kiana Engel, seventh, Big Valley Grace Christian School
Madison Whisenand, sixth, Agnes Baptist Elementary School
Rebecca Colby, sixth, Baptist
Caroline Copin, sixth, Dieterich
Kenna Vandemark, sixth, Dieterich
Olivia Velasques, seventh, Prescott
Kaitlyn Mutchler, seventh, Prescott
Brianna Boston, sixth, Baptist
HOW TO HELPTravel donations can be sent to Lori Dexter, in case of Girl Scout Troop 2225, 4125 Wheeler Peak Way, Modesto 95356. Phone: (209) 606-7616
ONLINEThe Vintage Grove Web page is at http://iriproducts.com/vintagegrove/vintagegrove.html. The Future City competition, http://futurecity.org.