Future City team competes at national level

By Sydni Porter, Design Editor — One hundred years into the future, people are thriving in a town modeled after cities all across Iceland. Skotgeta – meaning “firepower” in Icelandic – is flourishing with geothermal energy racing through its wires and communities. Cancer is cured, crime rates are at an all time low, but there is one major downside: it only exists in the inventive minds of 34 STEM students at Oakwood Middle School.

These students worked for months developing the theories of the city that lived in their brains until it was designed on paper and finally built as a model composed of mostly recycled materials, representing the theme of “the power of public space.” The project consists of essays, a 3D model, a virtual model made on SimCity, and multiple rounds of presenting and questioning.

This past January, the team won the regional competition, providing them with the opportunity to be Plain Local’s first ever National-level competitors in the four years of participation. From Feb. 18-21, the team competed with the best across the country.

“[At regionals] They called up fifth, fourth, third, then the last two teams on the stage. We were just listening “…And in second place B–” that’s all they had to say, that first letter. We immediately erupted, my jaw just dropped,” eighth grader David Wellman said.

At the helm of the project stands teacher Vanessa Board, a veteran of the competition. Four years ago, Board led her first batch of city creators – now juniors at the high school – to ninth place out of 18. Every year following has gotten progressively better, climbing the ranks from third, to second, and finally claiming first this year.

“Those three years, I just had to figure out how to play the game,” Board said. “If I can figure out the rules, play the game and strategize, then I can win it.”

The three presenters of this year’s group were Wellman, along with his fellow eighth graders Zoey Rastetter and Landin Sumor, who tied in modern politics into their performance. They played Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and time-traveling Bernie Sanders, respectively.

At the national competition, the group was able to score a special award for having the most innovative design of infrastructure systems.

“The opportunities that were provided to us were just phenomenal. It’s great for our age too, to be given the chance to go to D.C. and compete. It was overall just amazing. It was a dream,” Rastetter said.

It was not all smooth sailing, according to the team. They waged war against one major enemy of teenagers: procrastination.

“One month out, I had to have a very stern heart-to-heart with them… they’d been working [on the model] for 50 hours, but there wasn’t 50 hours worth of work on the board. I had to warn them: either we start working, or I’ll replace you,” Board said.

Local architect Rod Meadows, who works for Motter and Meadows in Canton, provided Oakwood with the necessary funds to take all 34 students to D.C., rather than just the advisor and presenters.

“He’s been such a huge supporter of Plain Local schools and it’s great to see local businesses really putting back into the education of their young ones. They know that this is our future,” Board said. “I know it sounds very cliche, but I think he really gets that idea.”

The group, through their ups and downs, truly became closer because of the project and learned how much collaboration matters.

“We were all friends, but we really became a family,” Rastetter said.

Board is already looking to her fifth year in the competition.

“I learned a lot, I took a lot of notes on how we can improve,” Board said. “I’m just looking forward to next year and improving on what we’ve already done and starting a legacy of attending the National competition.”

[Updated Aug. 20, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]