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1. Woodside Middle School, Fort Wayne
2. Blackhawk Middle School, Fort Wayne
3. Westfield Middle School, Westfield, Hamilton County
Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Blackhawk Middle School eighth-grader Jonathan Hartman waves his hand over the city of Cantabrica to illuminate motion-activated lights while teammates, from left, Gilson Moh, Chance McKibben and Caitlyn Crowder look on during the Future City Competition on Saturday in the Walb Student Union at IPFW.

Students map out future cities

Event focused on finding solution to water runoff

Indian Springs Middle School seventh-graders Caleb Binkley, left, and Jake Rensner set their city Hydropolis onto the presentation table.

In the city of Mitigate, farming on terraces outside downtown and green roofs that grow water hyacinth, watercress and papyrus help eliminate stormwater runoff.

A maglev monorail connects residential, commercial and industrial centers, and children ride it to and from school. Solar panels on buildings create energy, and residents drink water collected from the environment – nano-purified and vitamin-fortified to keep them healthy.

If it all sounds too good to be true – well, actually, it is.

The city of Mitigate exists only in the minds of Kristen Reed, Alexandria Short, Samuel Daughterty, Chazz Bruce and McKenzie Haneline and in a scale model the four eighth-graders from Riverview Middle School in Huntington brought to Saturday’s Future City Competition at IPFW’s Walb Student Union.

For the last decade, the annual event has been encouraging budding engineers and scientists to stretch their imaginations and peer into the world in which we might someday live, said Carol Dostal, the competition’s Indiana regional coordinator.

Saturday, she said, was the culmination of a semester’s worth of work, with students planning, designing, mapping and building a model of their ideal city of the future.

The model had to use recycled materials, and students had to provide an essay on how they approached a specific urban problem – this year, managing stormwater runoff. They then presented their work to judges, professionals in the field, and answered their questions.

“They have to think about things like zoning and infrastructure, which is something most middle-school kids don’t think about,” Distal said. “It’s how creative can they be.”

Twenty-four teams competed, with the winning team – from Woodside Middle School – going on to the national competition in Washington, D.C., that takes place Feb. 17-23.

Blackhawk Middle School’s Cantabrica took second place, and third place went to the future city La Cima del Mundo, which means “top of the world,” from the Westfield Middle School team in Hamilton County.

The students from Riverview – all 13 and 14 years old – said they decided to name their imaginary city Mitigate “because it means less of something,” Short said. “We wanted to make the problems (of water pollution and flooding) lessen.”

Their teacher, William Bostain, 24, an IPFW graduate who is in his first year as a science teacher, said the students were captivated by the challenge. It was the first time the school had competed.

“They put in long hours. I think they stayed after school every day since we started in October,” he said. “They even came in over Christmas break. I gave them the option, and they took me up on it.”

Bostain said the group represented the best project from among 23 groups encompassing 122 students at his school.

“The school system just got iPads, and the kids used them to do research,” he said, adding the tablets also came in handy for laying out the city’s newspaper, the Mitigate Times, and setting up a city website.

Other features of Mitigate included an ocean-side high-rise, a water park, a recreation center and an institute where scientists could study aquatic wildlife.

But Short said the group was most proud of their water filtration idea, which created “the cleanest and most healthy water in the world.”

Students even brought some in bottles, for which they had designed and made special labels. They planned to give them to the judges when they did their formal presentation.

“We’re the very last ones (to be judged),” Short said, “so we’re hoping our water will refresh them.”

The team didn’t win a top spot. But the students didn’t walk away empty-handed.

They won a Team’s Choice award based on votes from other competitors and a special award for having outstanding parks and recreational areas.

“I think, with our new ideas, I think it could really change the future,” Reed said.