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Moscow Middle School team has a vision of future cities

By Taylor Nadauld Moscow-Pullman Daily News

DiscoverE’s Future City Competition – a national, nonprofit educational program – challenges sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to design and create cities of the future. This year’s theme is “The Power of Public Space.”

Five teams from the Moscow and Richland area competed at a sub-regional competition in the PACCAR Building on the Washington State University campus this weekend for three open spots to attend regionals in Seattle.

Winners there get an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C., in February.

Two teams from Richland’s Three Rivers HomeLink for home-schooled students tied for second place and will head to Seattle.

But it was a team of seventh-grade girls from Moscow Middle School that came out on top, outscoring everyone, landing first place and a $1,000 prize to pay for travel expenses. The team also received the people’s choice award for Best Moving Part – a working fan that powered their police and fire stations.

The girls, Defne Yuksel, 13; Nicole Xiao, 12; Ellie Pimentel, 11; and Aneesha Shrestha, 12, designed the colorful city of Mariposa, a city free of fossil fuels and boasting an electromagnetic bullet train and lots of public spaces.

“It’s really hard to get a lot of public spaces that are futuristic and innovative, so I think that’s pretty unique that we came up with a lot of different ways,” Nicole said.

Teams were judged and scored in five areas:

– A virtual city design created using SimCity software

– An essay describing the attributes of their city

– A scale model of their city built from recycled materials

– A seven-minute presentation to a panel of judges

A project plan

One of the bigger challenges for the girls was scheduling time to work on the project. Nicole said they are a part of every academic club there is.

“Me and Defne have crazy busy schedules,” Nicole said.

But when the Future City competition came up again this year, they decided to take it on. Aneesha said they began working on the project as soon as they heard about it in August. Since then, the girls said there were months and months of procrastination as well as hours of working round the clock to get it finished.

“We’re interested in academic competitions and proving that we can take something to a new level, and by incorporating Future City into our daily lives, we get that time,” Defne said.

The girls said they could not have done any of it without their teacher, Lori Lawton.

“Our teacher, Mrs. Lawton, she is the reason for all of this happening, because if she didn’t allow us to use her resources, if she didn’t donate materials to us, if she didn’t come in over break every single day, then we couldn’t have done this,” Defne said.

After the awards ceremony, Lawton was full of emotion.

“I’m just happy for them,” Lawton said through tears.

Somayeh Nassiri, WSU assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said she and a parent started hosting the event locally last year. Nassiri said she likes the program because it engages students at a young age and the SimCity portion of the project is exciting and interesting for boys and girls.

“We both just believe in the cause and we wanted to do something that got more young students into our field and also female students,” Nassiri said.

Karl Englund, co-coordinator for the event, said there were significantly fewer participants this year than last. Though the event was hosted in Pullman and Nassiri said schools were contacted, no Pullman schools competed.

Englund said getting parents and teachers involved could increase participation in the years to come. He said the weather in Pullman could have also detracted from participation.

The Moscow and Richland teams will compete in Seattle next weekend.

“Regionals, here we come,” Defne said.

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