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A peek into the future

The 13 students in Olympic Peninsula Academy’s Future City class were detail-oriented beyond their 12 or 13 years when designing a futuristic city: a plasma ball served as a power plant from which the city operated, an LED (light-emitting diode) with a flasher circuit hooked up to a battery pack served as a lighthouse.

The children, with the help of teacher Timothy Wilkinson, also decided to use Silmar 41, a special water that is made for modeling deep water, to symbolize canals.

“Virtually everything was their idea,” Wilkinson said.

The students found themselves in a jam just days before the Jan. 19 competition, however, when they found out that the shipping date on the specially-ordered water had changed and it wouldn’t arrive until after the contest. Everything that would replace the water and look realistic was far out of the class budget.

The children didn’t let the obstacle stop them — they came up with a replacement, put the finishing touches on their project, and went on to win third place in the competition.

The students decided to name the city Maracaibo, after Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela.

“They wanted a town on a lake, a very big lake,” said Wilkinson. “So we talked about it, they did some research and they decided on Maracaibo.”

The prize, which included three $200 savings bonds, laser pointers, T-shirts, hats and a book on engineering, was a long time coming. The OPA students began the project at the start of the school year, beginning with extensive research.

“We looked at what some scientists were saying the future would be like,” Wilkinson explained. “Then we brainstormed ideas.”

Each child also built his or her own home, designed the way they wanted it, to put in the city. The remaining area was filled with parking lots and parks that arc their way high above the city.

Wilkinson said the group felt prepared going into the Seattle competition, and on Jan. 18 the presenters, Grace Goschen, Skyler Lewis and Carson Lewis did a special practice presentation for the group, followed by a mock question-and-answer session. Since OPA had a team entered in the competition last year, many of the students had experience with it.

By the time the contest rolled around on Saturday, the judges already had scored three parts of the competition: a computer model of the city, an essay on nanotechnology and a mini-essay on the features of the city.

“Taking third (place) in a statewide competition is very impressive, especially from so small a school,” said Wilkinson of the students, who were competing against about 20 other teams. “They’ve done really well.”

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