Thirteen-year-old Annabelle Fosburgh and her partner, Ryan Minter, 13, stood over the imaginary, mostly cardboard, Brazilian city of De Verde at the 2016 Future City Regional Competition at IPFW on Saturday.
She says that her teacher at Oregon-Davis Jr./Sr. High School in Hamlet, Indiana, literally pulled her out of class to be a part of the competition this year.
"She said, ‘You’ll like this. Come on, it’s going to be fun.’ And it was. I enjoyed it," Fosburgh says. "I’m really crafty, I like to do a lot of art, so sometimes, I’ll construct things, but it’s never been anything like this."
The annual Future City Competition challenges middle school students to make the world a better place through research, design and their imaginations.
This year’s theme, "Waste Not, Want Not," inspired students to construct tabletop-sized model cities that utilized waste management systems for residential use and small businesses.
The students also had to create a virtual model of their city, write a 1,500-word description of the city, devise a project plan and present their projects to a panel of judges.
For students across the state, the competition Saturday was the one hurdle to cross in order to get a spot at the national competition in Washington, D.C., in February.
However, Indiana Regional Coordinator Carol Dostal says the students gain much more than just an award. She says this year’s program put an emphasis on project management.
"That’s something that is beneficial to kids at any age, (whether they’re) going on into high school, or an university, or a career," Dostal said. "It’s about understanding the project management process, and how that works in a more formalized way. Some of the teachers are already doing that with their students, but now it’s actually a required part of the project."
Dostal said that not only does the competition encourage students to create and plan, but it also asks them to effectively communicate their ideas to judges.
Throughout the crowded ballroom in the Walb Student Union, judges with clipboards snaked through the maze of tables, asking students to explain how various parts of the city would promote sustainability.
The line of judges got a bit jammed up speaking to the presenters for Most Precious Blood Catholic School. Alex Workman, 14, Alex Tinajero, 13 and Nick Combs, 14, greeted each judge with a firm handshake, and a "Ma’am" or "Sir" salutation. Their city, Kyropolis, converted waste into methane gas, which could be influential in making communities less dependent on carbon-based fuel.
The trio worked seamlessly together, often picking up each other thoughts midsentence. Workman said it was a little nerve-wracking at first.
"But after a while, we were cracking jokes, and it was just fun. All of the bugs got out, and it was clean and smooth from there," he said.
Shane Pickett, a competition mentor for Towles New Tech Middle School, has experience with the competition as a member of the Steering Committee and as a judge for the virtual city component, but this year, he signed up to help his daughter, Rachael and her team. He says that he loves that Future City packs various disciplines into one activity.
"It’s not just science, or model-building. It’s city planning, it’s project management, it’s engineering, it’s essays, it’s presentations, it’s verbal skills. It’s so many of the things that kids need to learn in a classroom, but they get to learn it in a setting where you get that competitive urge driving it all," he said.