One hundred years from now, senior citizens in a growing city somewhere in Greece could have lit sidewalks and flying cars to help them with their transportation needs.
It may seem like a far-fetched idea, but a bunch of Wayne Junior High students recently built a model of such a city that won a Future City regional competition that will allow them to show their stuff to a national audience of engineers next month in our nation’s capital.
Wayne’s 17-member Future City team earned a trip to nationals last year and earned a return trip recently after winning a regional engineering competition in Omaha. The Future City competition challenges students in grades 6-8 to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue.
This year’s challenge was making a city an “age-friendly” city that took into account concerns of senior citizens in their Sim City-built community, engineering two innovative solutions that help that city’s senior citizens to be as active and independent as they want to be.
Sonya Tompkins, art teacher and high ability learner coordinator for Wayne Community Schools, is the sponsor for the Wayne Future City team and said a lot of work went into creating a city of the future.
“They have to learn about how cities operate, from budget to infrastructure and city services, and how to keep people in their community happy, which isn’t always easy to do,” she said.
Each member of the team worked on a variety of things, from creating the city’s infrastructure to researching everything from population to environment and historical markers. Some students created the PowerPoint presentation that was used at the regional competition, while others worked on everything from research to building the scale model of their city that was used in the presentation.
Leanne Westphal, an eighth grader who was one of three presenters on the team, said the group chose Greece as the site for its future city.
“Greece has a really good life system with all the healthy food they eat, and we felt with all the landscape and the history that everything was beautiful there.”
After creating the ideas for their fictitious city, set in the nation of Greece, the Wayne kids asked senior citizens at the Wayne Senior Center for their input. They researched and wrote out a survey that local senior citizens filled out, asking them what they like about the community and what needs to be improved.
From that research — which took into account such things as housing, city zoning and infrastructure — the kids chose lighted sidewalks and flying cars as the answers to their transportation issues and went to work creating a city that utilized those concerns.
The Anavei sidewalks are smooth, lighted sidewalks which light from below and include a variety of safety features, Tompkins said. The Aeroskafos — a Greek word for flying cars — would provide transportation in the city 100 years from now for senior citizens to utilize.
“Everyone did a little bit of everything,” Westphal said. “We had a group that worked on the paper who met in the library after school and searched for information, and some of us worked on the presentation and threw out a bunch of ideas of what we were going to say and how we were going to do it.”
Ultimately, the team decided to stage a conversation between the mayor — played by Avery Herman — a city engineer — played by Maiah Davis — and Westphal, who was the granddaughter of a senior citizen living in the community. They discussed everything about the city using information from the team’s Powerpoint and research paper to create their skit.
Having had a chance to go to nationals a year ago, Tompkins said the team also watched some of the videos of the top teams from last year’s national competition to get an idea of how to best present their information to the judges, all of whom are engineers in certain areas.
“The kids watched some of those videos and then wrote a magnificent paper,” she said.
And the judges were very impressed, Westphal said, including one who liked the team’s use of Greece in their presentation.
“One of the engineers actually lived in Greece and she said we were spot on as to how we made the landscape,” she said.
Now the team will head to Washington, D.C. Feb. 17-21 to compete with more than 30 other teams from all over the world. Teams last year came as far away as China and Egypt to compete for awards that include money that goes to schools’ STEM (Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics) programs and a visit to Space Camp for the presenters on the team.
At the national event, each team will spend one hour and 45 minutes answering questions from a variety of engineers from big-name corporations, including Boeing, 3M and many others. Each engineer spends seven minutes with each team, asking a variety of questions in their level of expertise. The top five teams make a final presentation during a program that will be attended by close to 1,000 people.
“I think we’re all super-excited about it but a little nervous having to present in front of these big, top companies,” Westphal said.
Tompkins said that some of the members of the team who aren’t part of the three-person presentation and their families will be going along to provide moral support for the Wayne team.
“The questions there will be a lot more technical but I think the kids will be ready for it,” she said.
Westphal, Herman and Davis will be the three presenters, with Abby Wieseler serving as the alternate. Other team members include Ruby Kinzie, Catherine Adler, Liam Wachter, Jesus Arroyo, Jace Piper, Allie Piersanti, Chase Adams, Ashton Brandow, Ethan Bohnert, Coby Dickes, Gracie Jepsen, Matt Kufner and Orion Spieker.