St. John students take third in national Future City Competition

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published February 23, 2016


ROCHESTER — St. John Lutheran School’s Future City Competition team was in Washington, D.C., last weekend, battling against schools across the nation to defend its two-time national championship title.

For the sixth consecutive year, the team took first place in the Engineering Society of Detroit’s Michigan Regional Future City Competition, and it also won the Automation Technology Achievement, Building a World of Difference and Incorporation of Plastic Materials awards for its city — “Egabrag,” which is garbage spelled backward.

“The team is still surprised because it is a new team of presenters, and it’s a new batch of kids that come up from the following year,” said fifth-grade teacher Jon Pfund, who serves as the teacher mentor for the program. “We always wonder, ‘Did we still work hard enough?’ ‘Do we still have the hard enough work ethic?’ ‘Can we get on the cutting edge enough?’ We just don’t know what the competition is capable of. We’re always running as fast as we can, training for a marathon. We don’t let up.”

The team then advanced to the Future City National Finals Feb. 13-17, snapping up third place overall. St. John Lutheran School also won two special awards after three hours of judging — Best Virtual City Design and Best Use of Innovative Construction Materials and Techniques. The team will receive a $2,000 scholarship, sponsored by IEEE-USA, for its science, technology, engineering and math program.

“It was another amazing trip to Washington, D.C., and the Future City National Finals for the St. John Lutheran team. The team honored their school and state,” volunteer mentor Linda Gerhardt, a chemical engineer at General Motors, said in an email. “Presenters Emily Abramczyk, Leah Schroeder and Emma Scharfenberg were calm and flawless during their top-five presentation in front of 1,000 attendees. In addition, the virtual design simulation completed by alternate presenter Ben Toth won the national award for the second year in a row.”

The Future City competition is designed to promote interest in technology and engineering by having middle school students research a theme, develop a city plan and create their future city using SimCity, a city management simulator. Teams are then responsible for writing a 1,500-word essay describing their city and must use recycled materials to build a tabletop model, as well as give a presentation about their creation.

Approximately 21 students — along with Pfund and Gerhardt — worked on the project two days a week during the school’s academic enrichment class, plus an hour and a half after school two days a week and for another four to five hours on Saturdays through the end of January.

This year’s Future City theme challenged students to think about the phrase “Waste Not, Want Not.”

The St. John team implemented “Re5-ReVive,” — which stands for rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle and reclaim — as a solution for garbage pollution for Mokattam Village in Manshiyat Nasir, near Cairo, Egypt. Gerhardt said Mokattam Village is known as “Garbage City.” The team developed a means by which the city’s residents could use the existing waste and residue to support daily life. 

“The solution is called ‘Re5-ReVive.’ Basically, it’s a total solution for garbage pollution. What it does is it includes reducing, reusing, recycling and then reclaiming energy. The kids imagined that by rethinking waste, they could turn the city around — primarily through reducing what can be reduced, reusing what already exists, recycling what can be recycled and creating energy from everything else,” Gerhardt said.

“Part of the innovation on our part, in the future, is we took the cutting-edge technology that we understand works today, but we put it in such an order that they really make sense, and really there is no longer any waste,” Pfund added.