This year’s project, Jorel Bessey noted, was a bit more of a challenge: build a city with no atmosphere and no oxygen.
“We basically had to start from scratch.”
Nothing a few hard-working, inventive middle-schoolers can’t handle.
Olympic Peninsula Academy students made their annual foray into the Future City competition, and while they won’t be advancing to the national competition the Sequim teams did pick up some honors and a few lessons along the way.
Each year more than 45,000 students, representing 1,500 schools and 50 regions in the U.S. and abroad take part in the Future City Competition, an event designed to “see engineering as a direct influence on their lives — why math and science are relevant to their world — and make a hands-on connection between their education and their future,” organizers say.
Students in grades 6-8 combine creativity with available STEM concepts, tools and resources to solve problems and address the challenges of the present and future.
Projects include physical scale model cities, an essay, project planning, video presentation and Q&A with judges.
The 2020-2021 competition theme was “Living on the Moon.”
Sequim sixth-graders Katerina Abken, Mica McCarter and Donovan Rynearson — also known as Team Mellontikos — earned fifth place at the state regional finals in January.
For McCarter and others, how to handle issues radiation on the moon which lacks a thick atmosphere or a magnetic field to protect it, was a big hurdle, along with the threat of meteors and the moon’s own sharp, fragmented soil.
“Finding a way to feed our people (was tough),” Rynearson said.
Bessey and fellow eighth-grader Nick Parrish of Team Polus doubled the level of walls to help protect people inside, which would allow time for repairs if one level was damaged.
Rynearson said a gel-like exterior added to the city’s walls helped with protection.
Their seventh-grade OPA counterparts Ariya Goettling and Louden Yates — Team Pandora — took home the region’s safest city award.
Yates said a key challenge to completing the city was simply finding building materials.
The sixth-grade team developed an “Eat My Dust” collector to extract amino acids and oxygen from the moon’s surface.
OPA’s Future City entries had to be completed before winter break in December. In most years, Future City competitions would involve masses of youths in the same room,many of them talking with competition judges all at the same time. Instead, with COVID restrictions in place, competitions were virtual.
“It was definitely different this year,” OPA teacher Lilly Hardesty said.
Last week, Sequim’s OPA teams celebrated their Future City efforts with a pizza party.
Several youngsters said they are considering careers in engineering.
Hardesty noted they are encouraged to think outside the box” for projects like these.
“Technically,” McCarter added, noting this year’s subject, “we should be thinking outside the sphere.”