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Academy students learn science for Future City competition

Sequim Gazette

Fourteen tech-savvy middle schoolers at Olympic Peninsula Academy are launching their concept “Future City” this weekend in Seattle.


Students take their city on Saturday, Jan. 22, to Key Arena to compete against 18 other schools with their city’s computer design, scale model, essay and presentation at the Northwest “Future City” regional competition.


They’ve worked two hours a week since September to develop Spacelatica, a city that helps paraplegic and quadriplegic people with a focus on complete recovery. Patients are retrofitted with exoskeletons and given neurological cell therapy to aid in recovery of the use of their limbs. Patients are transferred to a medical ward in space where they can move their bodies in reduced gravity chambers.


The ideas are all hypothetical for now but based on real research, said parent mentor Lilli Hardesty.

If the students take first in Seattle, then the team is sent to Washington, D.C., to compete nationally. This is the school’s fifth year competing. They finished third in 2010 and have won the “People’s Choice” award each year.


Presenters Shannon Gordon, 14, Grant Shogren, 14, and Shawn Hardesty, 12, feel good about their chances at the competition. Gordon said she and classmates have worked on the city’s science essay and the city’s design narrative for a while.


“We learned a lot about paraplegics and quadriplegics and about a lot of the difficulties they face in their daily lives,” Gordon said. “They have problems with bed sores, troubles breathing, regulating temperature, muscle spasms.”


“We wanted to make life easier,” Shogren said.


Spacelatica’s infrastructure took the bulk of the team’s time. The scale model was made using recycled and donated parts, which earns the school extra points. Ingenuity comes in handy because rules state they can’t spend more than $100 on the city.


“That’s the resourcefulness of the class and teacher,” said Garry Wohlgemuth, a civil engineer and mentor.


Students were tasked to create a useful medical product or procedure. Wohlgemuth helped students focus the city’s purpose to help paraplegics and quadriplegics because originally the space module in the center of town.


The city’s model has 17 moving parts, including the module, In previous years, they’ve only had a few, so they’ll receive more points on presentation this year. The three presenters agreed the best part of finishing the city was knowing it all worked.


The Future City competition is a national program sponsored by engineering societies to promote interest in technology and engineering for middle school students.


Olympic Peninsula Academy is a program operated by the Sequim School District to provide instructional support and enrichment for home-schooled students.


Reach Matthew Nash at



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