- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2004

Some students with creative minds yesterday presented their visions of tomorrow’s cities and how they will be designed during the 2004 National Engineers Week Future City Competition at the University of the District of Columbia in Northwest.

Twelve students from four junior high and middle schools around the metropolitan area gathered inside the university’s Firebird Inn to compete for the privilege of representing the Washington region during the national finals in the District Feb. 20-25.

Four teams of three students each, accompanied by their teachers and engineering mentors, made oral presentations, wrote essays and designed colorful three-dimensional futuristic cities that emphasized the use of plastics. Students were judged by a panel of 10 engineers and engineering professors, who asked them to expound on their concepts and defend their designs.

“We’re looking at creative thinking in terms of futuristic concepts, which includes energy sources, transportation systems and living areas,” said Segun Adebayo, the D.C. regional coordinator of the competition.

Mr. Adebayo, a 22-year professor of mechanical engineering at UDC, said students started work on their projects at the end of October. Some students who have competed in the past and already knew the procedures might have started brainstorming a little earlier, he said.

“Our goal is to encourage children to pursue engineering as a career. To show them that engineering is fun. We just really want them to stick to it,” he said.

Zataunia Herd, 13, a 4.0 grade-point student at R.H. Terrell Junior High School in Northwest, said she and her teammates, Danielle Nelson, 14 and Shawnne Bender, 15, named their city “Plassien,” the Greek word that means plastics. The futuristic city, located off the coast of Florida and set in the year 3028, has a population of 166,000 and is geared towards making quality of life better for senior citizens. The city’s main source of energy would be the sun and water, along with coal and gas, she said.

Emerson French, 13, an eighth-grader at Hyattsville Middle School in Hyattsville, Md., and his teammates, Emily Dunn, 13 and Monica Houchens, 13, discussed their version of a futuristic “Solar City.”

“We’ve based ‘Solar City’ on solar power. It has four or five more sources than solar to provide energy to the city. Our city is set in the year 2152 with a population of 215,480. We have trees, but they are a lot shorter than the trees of today. We don’t want to block the sun,” Emerson said.

Students from Roland Park Middle School in Baltimore designed a city under water. The female trio designed and built “Triton City” near the Great Barrier Reef, with a central dome and smaller domes connected to the main dome by tunnels.

Herndon Middle School’s vision of a future city called “Brandonburg” prided itself on its transportation system.

“We’ve got a real cool transportation system that’s very efficient and there’s no gas emissions,” said Alex Eaddy, 14. Alex, his teammates, Chris Comtois, 13, and Brandon Davies-Sekle, 13, felt their city would be a fun place to live.

“We would use smart plastics — that’s currently under development by NASA,” Alex said.

After nearly an hour, Ben Latigo, chief judge of the competition and the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, announced the winner: Terrell Junior High in the District won first place and took home the trophy, followed by Herndon Middle School. Hyattsville Middle School placed third and Roland Park Middle School placed fourth. Mr. Latigo congratulated all of the students for their participation and gave all of them gifts.

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