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Walled Lake students compete in Future City regional finals

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 10, 2016

WALLED LAKE — Imagine a city that runs on wind and solar power, and a wave generator. 

Now imagine that the city has no need for new water, and air pollution is minimal. 

Zenith Crest, Texas, a future city created by Geisler Middle School students, sits along the Gulf of Mexico and is home to over 100,000 future people. The city was developed as part of Michigan’s Future City competition, sponsored by the Engineering Society of Detroit.  

Eleven sixth- to eighth-grade students from Geisler Middle School competed in the Future City regional finals at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Jan. 25. The team earned the Building with the American Spirit: People, Projects, Communities Award and the Stormwater Pollution Prevention Award. 

Designed as a cross-curricular competition, Future City incorporates not only math, science, engineering and technology, but also language skills. More than 400 students and 150 volunteer engineer judges and mentors participated in the event.

Each team is paired with a mentor who guides the students in their city-building process. Students are required to research the 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, as well as using recycled materials to build a tabletop model.

The theme changes yearly, and this year’s theme was “Waste Not, Want Not: Solid Waste Management Systems of the Future.” Past topics have included stormwater management, urban agriculture and green energy. 

The Geisler Middle School team began building its city in September. The students spent an entire day reviewing city planning, which included learning about placing a sewerage system and laying out the city buildings and streets. 

“We had a few designs to pick from, and then we chose the best design and sent that in. The kids had to come up with blueprints of what their city was going to look like. … Between garbage picking, what we had at the house, (and) some kids went to the Scrap Box in Ann Arbor, we managed to put together their future city,” Geisler Middle School teacher Laura Schippa said. 

Per the theme, the Geisler Middle School team developed a solid waste management system where solid waste is filtered out of dirty water, and usable water is then sent back to the citizens, seventh-grade student Adam Krugel said. 

“Our solid waste that we can’t filter back out into the water is incinerated, and the air pollution is scrubbed out through air scrubbers so the people don’t get sick,” Krugel said. 

In addition to the wind and solar energy, and the wave generator, eighth-grade student Hasan Mala said their city also has a monorail to transport citizens to work, which minimizes the need for vehicles. The vehicles that are in the city are electric, he added. 

The Geisler Middle School team was paired with retired civil engineer Jerome Neyer. Neyer has been a member of the Engineering Society of Detroit for 50 years and is the former president. He has been mentoring students participating in the Future City competition for about eight years. 

“I think it’s a great program because it gives them a little bit of understanding of what engineering is all about,” Neyer said. 

Neyer’s role was to help the students understand how to develop a city and what things are necessary for a solid infrastructure. To fulfill the theme requirements, Neyer said, he and the students discussed water, sewage and air quality. 

“You can’t solve the problem until you know what it is,” Neyer said. “They have a system for water treatment.”

Neyer said there are two kinds of water: greywater and blackwater. Blackwater is wastewater from toilets, and greywater is other household waste water. 

“(The students) have, I think, understood the concept of you don’t want to have to treat all the water. Detroit’s problem is the rainwater goes into the same pipes as the sewage water, and they have to treat it all,” Neyer said, applauding the students’ water treatment solution. 

Schippa said the school will compete again next year, and they hope to have enough students interested to create more than one school team. 

“We’re proud of our kids. This is their first time in the competition. They’ve really pulled it out. I’m really happy,” Schippa said.