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Students Help Plan for San Antonio's Water Future

SAMSAT and partners guide young people from across the community in this year's Smart City Challenge.




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SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS – As strains for potable water increase across the planet, dedicated students from throughout San Antonio are being called upon to work alongside educators and other professionals to develop solutions for a more resilient world.

Approximately 100 of those students, all of whom are enrolled at Krueger School of Applied Technologies (KSAT), kicked off the fifth-annual SA Smart: Mayor's K-12 Smart City Challenge at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) training center. 

This year's effort, which is sponsored by San Antonio Water System (SAWS) and supported by the City of San Antonio's Planning Department, focuses on water conservation and asks students, "How can San Antonio best use and manage water for the long-term benefits of its residents?"


Since 2018, SA Smart partners — local nonprofits, educators and community leaders — have worked to drive student learning through project-based smart city challenges. Along the way, students learn civic responsibility and how to critically analyze problems, collaborate with mentors and peers and communicate their findings — all critical skills in the 21st century economy. 

For the next several months, participating students in grades seven through twelve will perform research and suggest ways to responsibly use and manage the water resources available in our city. Students will propose a product, service or strategy for the long-term benefit of the community's residents. SAMSAT will facilitate and guide those efforts working hand-in-hand with the participating schools.

During the inaugural clinic held at the museum's education center in January, KSAT students received introductory presentations from local professionals, entrepreneurs and other subject matter experts in water resource management and distribution.

Students will work in teams throughout the spring 2022 semester and will present their proposed solutions in May, when an awards ceremony will also be held to recognize the top projects. 


SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente delivers opening remarks to the students participating in the SA Smart competition clinic at Port San Antonio.

"As we create a healthier and more resilient community, we need to empower our young people so they can be assured that they, too, play an important role in shaping our future," said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. "After all, these students will be our innovators and leaders in just a few years. I applaud the teamwork by SAMSAT and Communities in Schools — alongside teachers, mentors and students throughout San Antonio — who have come together in a shared vision of building a better future for today's generations and those ahead."

"Access to clean water is fundamental for a society to exist and thrive," said SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente. "Our team is excited that this year's Smart City Challenge focuses on this precious resource — showing young people the complexity of water conservation and water management and, of critical importance, giving them an opportunity to offer ideas to innovate these systems to meet the needs of one of America's fastest-growing cities. SAWS is proud to partner in this endeavor, and we are excited to see the solutions students will showcase later this year."

"The most powerful learning happens in context, and in the SA Smart City Challenge, students learn important lessons and what it's like to be a leader in our city," said Dr. Cliff Zintgraff, SAMSAT Chief Learning Officer and Chair of the SA Smart Steering Committee. "Students take on real-world problems, receive mentorship and start important conversations with family and friends about where our city is headed in the short- and long-term."

In its fifth year, the competition continues to prove the value of local STEM programming provided by local SA Smart partners and sponsors.

"This competition is a great opportunity to support student learning, and the SA Smart City Challenge really shows us how innovative younger generations can be as they think about planning for our city's future," said Bridgett White, Director of the City of San Antonio's Planning Department.


"San Antonio has deep roots as a community that has developed and launched innovations that have changed the world," said Port San Antonio President and CEO Jim Perschbach. "It's terrific that — to ensure the ongoing development of that talent — SAMSAT, the City of San Antonio and our community's schools are coming together in creative ways to inspire and connect students with real-world problems which they can play a big role in addressing to make the world a better, safer place."

This spring, SAMSAT will significantly expand its operations at the upcoming Tech Port Center + Arena in the heart of the Port's campus. The new museum facility, with an adjacent industry technology showroom, collaborative lab space and an outdoor atmospheric water generation (AWG) exhibit, will help scale and support similar programs in the months and years ahead that connect students with future educational, career and entrepreneurial paths in many of the world's leading technologies. 


The Port's upcoming Innovation Center, Tech Port Center and Arena (top), will open in spring 2022 and will be the new home of SAMSAT. An outdoor water feature will be supplied by a state-of-the-art atmospheric water generation system that will also serve as a demonstration space and outdoor lab for students and professionals to further advance solutions that address global water shortages (video).  

SAWS is this year's lead sponsor for the SA Smart: Mayor's K-12 Smart City Challenge. The competition is also supported by CPS Energy, Itron, Smart Energy Education, the San Antonio Area Foundation and the Matthew C. and Catherine A. Reedy Charitable Fund.

Community partners include the City of San Antonio Mayor's Office, SAMSAT, Communities in Schools of San Antonio, Geekdom, the City of San Antonio Planning Department, the City of San Antonio Office of Innovations, Education Service Center-Region 20 and Alamo STEM Ecosystem.

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