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Rochester middle schoolers take their vision of the future to DC competition

Take students from 32 area middle schools and give them three months to create the city of the future.  Add dedicated teachers, several mentors from The Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) and you get several interesting ideas about what cities will look like 150 years from now.

At the Michigan Regional Future City Competition held January 31, 2011, the creativity of these sixth, seventh and eighth grade students was on display.  There cities featured solar power, piezoelectric energy harvesting, vertical farms, automated transportation and parks in every neighborhood.  To help keep us healthy, the students envisioned spray-on computers to help control Alzheimer’s and a human body scanning grid developed by stem cell researchers to identify or prevent future diseases.

The teams’ entries had to answer two questions. “What do you want the City of Detroit to look like in 2150 and beyond?” and “What will make it cool in your eyes?” Their answers will help form a master plan for the future of Detroit from a unique perspective.

The St. John Lutheran School team from Rochester was this year’s winner with its “Trinitas Avenir” entry, which showed a future Detroit in the year 2160 and beyond.  Four other Detroit area schools pIaced in the top five. MacArthur K-8 University Academy in Southfield took second place. St. Joseph School in Lake Orion came in third followed by University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods, which took fourth place. St. Valentine School in Redford was fifth.

The Future City Competition challenges students to design a city of the future – and have fun doing it. This program was designed to promote technological literacy and engineering to seventh and eighth grade students. It fosters an interest in math, science and engineering through hands-on, real world applications and helps students better understand the practical applications of mathematical and scientific principles.

Helping these students explore their ideas were mentors like Cary Junior, principle and general manger of Malise Associates.  Junior has been involved as a mentor for the Future City Competition for a few Detroit Public School teams.  This is the first year Detroit Public Schools were so well represented at the competition, with 18 teams.

“Once these kids get in, you see they are impressive kids,” he said. “They are eager to learn. These kids, once they put their mind to it, really followed through for this competition.”

While the competition was designed to give middle school students a chance for hands on practice with math, science, computer science, social studies, language arts and art curricula, it is also an opportunity for city leaders to learn what the next generation expects from our cities.

The work the students did will not go unnoticed.  Wayne County Executive (and ESD Board Member) Robert Ficano told students at the awards ceremony, “There is no doubt in my mind that your efforts will serve as a blueprint for our state.  For participants in Future Cities, we need you.  We need your vision.  I assure you, we’re listening.” Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh shared that sentiment with the audience as well.

“I am glad to see the future of Detroit is as exciting to you as it is to me,” Pugh said.  He went on to say the ideas the students brought to the competition will serve as a blueprint to help shape Detroit’s future.

Congratulations to the St. John Lutheran School on winning this year’s competition. They are heading to the National Future City Competition in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 18-22. The winner of the national competition will receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Good luck in Washington!

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