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St. John students win MI Future City Competition, head to nationals

February 19, 2014

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St. John Lutheran’s Future City Team presenters, eighth-graders Justin Judd, Rebecca Oleskie and Paul Rosa, helped their team win first place in the Engineering Society of Detroit’s Michigan Regional Future City Competition for the fourth year in a row.

ROCHESTER — After taking first place in the Engineering Society of Detroit’s Michigan Regional Future City Competition for the fourth year in a row, a group from St. John Lutheran School will head to Washington, D.C., to vie for the national championship.

“I was really excited for this bunch. The presentation this year is really fun and humorous, and the presenters are veterans and they worked really hard — they were flawless,” said volunteer engineer mentor Linda Gerhardt of the 2014 St. John team.

The Future City competition is designed to promote interest in technology and engineering by having middle school students design a city of the future, complete with a computer simulation and a 3-D model using recycled materials and no more than $100.

This year’s theme challenged students to think about “Tomorrow’s Transit: Design A Way To Move People In And Around Your City.” Students were asked to identify a problem of moving people in their future city and design a mode of transportation to solve that problem.

The team’s three presenters, eighth-graders Justin Judd, Rebecca Oleskie and Paul Rosa — along with fifth-grade teacher Jon Pfund and Gerhardt — created a futuristic city in south central China, near the city of Guilin, in 2164. Others on the core team included Abby Dayton, Leah Schroeder, Emily Abramczyk, Evan Fisher, Regan Wistehuff and Aiden Lusk. St. John fifth-graders Owen Myers, Ian Davidson, Ben Toth, Parker Dayton, Sophie Plewa, Linnea Artelt, Lizzie Smith and Austin West were also involved.

Their city — called Gongping, or “Fair” — uses a transportation system that is also called FAIR: Flexible, Accessible, Integrated and Renewable.

“It’s flexible because we can link our personal vehicles, which are called Gongping Pods, into and out of the elevated mass transit through sub hubs. We also have cargo tubes that are underground that move our goods throughout our city,” said Judd, 13, of Rochester.

The accessibility part of it, according to Oleskie, eliminates all physical and economic barriers.

“For the physical barriers, you can enter your building straight through your vehicle, so if you’re handicap or have mobility challenges, it’s an easy access for you, and it eliminates economic barriers because you don’t have to have your own. You can just pick one up at a nearby sub hub,” said Oleskie, 14, of Oxford.

Rosa, 13, of Rochester Hills, said the system is integrated because pods can click in and out of mass transit.

“Instead of having to park your car and walk down into the subway, it’s elevated mass transit, so they can go right up and click into it and get to all parts of the city through the grand central transit, which is the center of our transportation system,” said Rosa.

The renewable portion of the system, according to Gerhardt, has roadways that generate energy and then transfer the energy to vehicles’ battery systems through continuous charging.

Although students spent three months and almost 200 hours working on the project, they said they had a blast and learned quite a bit in the process.

From Gerhardt’s perspective, the project teaches students how to think technically, how to solve problems, how to write an essay and how to speak in public, along with learning about the role of engineers in society. But for the kids, each chose to highlight a different lesson learned.

“I’ve learned a lot about public speaking because, in sixth grade, when I first started this program, I really didn’t want to be a presenter  — and I didn’t end up being a presenter — but last year, there weren’t too many other people that wanted to be a presenter, so I stepped up and decided to give it a try and I thought it was really fun, so I gladly took the chance to be a presenter again this year,” said Judd.

“I learned a lot about persistence because I did the simulation, and there were a lot of times when I felt like I should quit it because I wasn’t getting any better. I was kind of stuck, and I couldn’t advance, but Dr. Gerhardt kept telling me to try to (make changes), and I was able to change a bunch of stuff and make it better,” said Rosa.

Oleskie said she learned a lot about teamwork.

“You can’t do a project like this alone. You need to have other people help you and encourage you to get stuff done on time,” she said.

The three presenters agreed that it felt amazing to place first in the state once again.

“It was really awesome, and I’m really happy to be going to D.C.,” said Judd.

“When we won this year, I was really overjoyed,” said Oleskie. “It was really nerve-racking for us.”

“It was really exciting when we won again,” said Rosa.

The team will compete in the National Future City competition in Washington, D. C., Feb. 15-19.

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