According to the competition website, Future City starts with a question—how can we make the world a better place? To answer that question, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future. The design showcases the solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Past topics have included storm water management, urban agriculture, public spaces, and green energy. The 2017-2018 theme was The Age-Friendly City. Teams identified an age-related challenge that exists in today’s urban environments and engineered two innovative solutions that would allow their future city’s senior citizens to be as active and independent as they wanted to be.
Representing the state of Oklahoma at international competition this year was St. Philip Neri Catholic School of Midwest City. The students chose Kotahi, New Zealand which is the native country of OKC Thunder star, Steven Adams. During Catholic Schools Week, Adams sent an autographed picture to the team showing his support for the project at the competition hosted in Washington D.C at the Capitol Hill Hyatt Regency. The treasured souvenir was taped to the back of the project for good luck.
The sentiment seemed to work as St. Philip Neri placed 4th at the competition gifting the school with $750 for the STEM program. St. Philip Neri outscored teams from China and Canada as well as the United States. This local team from Midwest City received a special award for “Resiliency in Engineering”.
This is a tremendous feat considering the size of other teams competeing each year. St. Philip Neri middle school teacher, Mrs. Sue Hawkins, places this accomplishment into perspective with a high school sports analogy, “I always feel at nationals like we are an eight-man football team playing against a 6A powerhouse. For our small school to compete so well against larger schools says something about the outstanding students we have at St. Philip Neri and for the education they receive.”
But “powerhouse” may be an appropriate term for St. Philip Neri. The school has competed in Future City since 2003 taking a one year hiatus in 2009. Of those 15 years of competition, St. Philip Neri has taken the regional title to represent Oklahoma at the D.C. competition 11 times. In 15 years the Midwest City Catholic School placed in the Top 10 five times and received the Best Essay award twice.
“That’s pretty impressive for a middle school whose total populations is 40 students,” said school principal, Brenda Tener. Principal Tener and the entire school body from three year olds to 8th grade watched the final round of presenting teams via live stream. “There was a lot of excitement and exhilaration in our hallways when the top 5 and special awards announcements were made,” she adds. “We are so proud of what we accomplished and how advanced our STEM program really is at this school.”
Next year’s Future City competition will be held on February 19, 2019. “We have our eyes on the prize and a legacy to continue,” Tener concludes.