Students Design Systems to feed cities IN the Future

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 17, 2015The Ellis School’s team of middle school students won first place honors in today’s Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition, sponsored by Carnegie Science Center and DiscoverE.

The team won a trip to the 22nd annual Future City National Finals in Washington, D.C., Feb. 14-18, 2015 (during National Engineers Week), where they will compete with the winners from 36 other regional competitions. National grand prize is a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

Each year, Future City presents themes that highlight a current issue and asks middle school kids to investigate and come up with solutions.  Students start with a research essay describing their concept, then write a City Narrative outlining the key features of their city.  Participants in this year’s Future City Competition designed innovative, forward- looking cities with systems for feeding their populations. The students proposed, designed, and developed the supporting infrastructure – both virtual and physical – that would be integral to those systems.  Participating students used SimCity™ software to design a virtual Future City model incorporating their ideas. Then they built a physical model using recycled materials at a cost of no more than $100. Students also wrote brief abstracts describing their city and presented and defended their designs before a panel of engineer judges, who tested the depth of the teams’ knowledge.

The Ellis School, located in the Point Breeze neighborhood of Pittsburgh, was represented by Marie Gerges, Lauren  Jasper, and Mishon Levine. Advising the team were teacher Andrea Christian-Michaels and volunteer engineer mentor Frank Sidar III. The highly imaginative winning team created a city in Australia named Jalikarra, where the mainstays of diet are an Egyptian spinach called molokhia – prized for its potassium and fiber – and chickpeas, for their protein, magnesium, and iron. The plants have been perennialized to save the labor of annual planting and ensure continuous harvests. An exciting innovation is Ferris Farming Fields: plants on Ferris wheels that dip below ground to get water and circle into the air to get sunlight. Plants are also grown on Community Growing Pyramids, inside of which are cafes and meeting rooms. The city uses no fossil fuels but is powered by solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

The Ellis School is participating in the Future City Competition for the seventh time, and took top honors in 2011.

Coming in second was Wheeling Middle School, which created Rifuiti Isola, where blue-green algae and mahimahi are the chief foods. A chief innovation is the Eye Phone, a contact lens that senses the wearer’s thoughts and sends messages.

West Mifflin Middle School won third place, and last year’s winner, St. Bede School, took fourth place. Propel Charter School – Pitcairn, competing for the first time, came in fifth and won the award for Outstanding First-Year Team.

A number of special awards were conferred by various sponsors. Student participants voted for the Student Choice Award, which went to St. Thomas More School.

“All of the students who participated are winners, whether or not they took home awards today,” said Lisa Kosick, Carnegie Science Center staff educator and Future City Competition regional coordinator. “They all did an amazing job, and it was inspiring to see their work. We are all rooting for The Ellis School to win the national championship.”

Thirty schools participated this year:

  • Beaver Falls Middle School
  • Bridge Street Middle School
  • Canonsburg Middle School
  • Christ the Divine Teacher Catholic Academy
  • Derry Area Middle School
  • Environmental Charter School
  • Fort Couch Middle School
  • Frazier Middle School
  • Kane Area Middle School
  • Manchester Academic Charter School
  • Marion Center Area School District
  • Otto-Eldred School District
  • Peters Township Middle School
  • Pittsburgh Science & Technology Academy
  • Propel Charter Schools - Braddock Hills
  • Propel Charter Schools - Homestead
  • Propel Charter Schools - McKeesport
  • Propel Charter Schools - Montour
  • Propel Charter Schools - North Side
  • Propel Charter Schools - Pitcairn
  • St. Alexis School
  • St. Bede School
  • St. Bernadette School
  • St. Thomas More School
  • Smethport Area School District
  • Springdale Jr. /Sr. High
  • The Ellis School
  • West Mifflin Area School District
  • Wheeling Middle School
  • Winchester Thurston School

The Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition is presented annually by Carnegie Science Center, as a program of the Chevron Center for STEM Education and Career Development. Local sponsors for the competition include Shell, The Engineers Society of Western Pennsylvania, the Allegheny County Health Department, American Society of Civil Engineers, AECOM, Bechtel, The Buhl Foundation Henry C. Frick Educational Fund, and Hatch Associates Consultants, Inc.  


About Future City® Competition
DiscoverE’s annual Future City Competition, for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, is held from September 2014 through February 2015

Future City is a major program of DiscoverE, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations, and culminates every year during Engineers Week.

About DiscoverE
DiscoverE works year-round to sustain and grow a dynamic engineering profession critical to public health, safety, and welfare. The foundation supports engineering outreach, education, and celebration through a network of thousands of volunteers in its partner coalition of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations and government agencies. Together we meet a vital need: introducing students, parents, and educators to engineering, engaging them in hands-on engineering experiences, and making science and math relevant. The foundation and coalition are actively putting the E in STEM.

About Carnegie Science Center
Carnegie Science Center is dedicated to inspiring learning and curiosity by connecting science and technology with everyday life. By making science both relevant and fun, the Science Center’s goal is to increase science literacy in the region and motivate young people to seek careers in science and technology. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, the Science Center is Pittsburgh’s premier science exploration destination, reaching more than 700,000 people annually through its hands-on exhibits, camps, classes and off-site education programs.

About Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1895, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh is a collection of four distinctive museums dedicated to exploration through art and science: Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Science Center, and The Andy Warhol Museum. Annually, the museums reach more than 1.2 million people through exhibitions, educational programs, outreach activities, and special events.