By LAURIE DENNIS
First came the breathtaking news that they were in the top five, announced at a gathering in a hotel conference room in Washington, D.C. and immediately passed along by emails and cell phones to friends and family back in Davidson.
Then came a final round of presentations before a panel of judges. Finally, at a mid-morning awards ceremony Tuesday, Davidson IB Middle’s Future City team was named the best in the nation.
“We got a standing ovation and we could hear clapping and shouting and it was so cool,” said team member Emily Yue.
“It was just crazy,” concurred teammate Ruth Swallow.
“I’m shocked,” said coach Jay Hager.
The win at the national finals follows the team’s first place finish (the third-straight for Davidson IB) at a regional competition Jan. 23 in Raleigh. (See our report, “Davidson IB wins third straight NC Future City title”)
Last year, the team placed 25th in the nation, and this time around Mr. Hager thought the 2010 team would be lucky to break into the top 20. However, he did not see any flaws in the team’s preparation, which began in April.
“They were very thorough,” Mr. Hager said. “Everything was planned, made, edited and revised. After their presentation, an engineer who has had teams in the top five before came up to me and said, ‘That’s the best presentation I’ve ever seen in my life.'”
The Future City Competition requires middle-school teams to design an imaginary city using math, engineering, ecology and economics.
Teams also had to write an essay, with this year’s topic being providing affordable housing for people who have lost their homes due to a natural disaster or financial emergency. The teams built their cities using computer simulation and were also required to create a physical model using materials costing less than $100.
The winning entry from Davidson IB depicted a future city the students dubbed Mamohatra and placed in Madagascar. The city featured alternative energy (including a “magnetic levitating” wind turbine, solar energy, and hydro power), hydroponic agriculture and low-cost refugee housing built of agricultural byproducts.
Team members said their project included controversial elements. At the preliminary round of judging Monday, team members were grilled about things like the health impact of using electromagnetic energy.
“The judges drilled us and found our weak points but we stood up to them,” said Ms. Swallow, adding that she thinks that may have been the key to them getting into the top five.
THE TOP FIVE TEAMS
The national competition, which is part of National Engineers Week, featured 39 first place winners from regional competitions held across the country last month. Besides Davidson, the top five Tuesday at Nationals also included teams from Valley Middle in Oakland, New Jersey (second place); a home school team from Reno, Nevada (third place); Birney Middle School in Southfield, Michigan (honorable mention); and Chippewa Middle in Mounds View, Minnesota (honorable mention).
Special awards were to be announced Tuesday afternoon. The National Finals grand prize winners receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, provided by Bentley Systems, Incorporated. Bentley also is providing a 10-seat academic suite of engineering software for each school of the top three teams.
DAVIDSON IB’S WINNING TEAM
Ms. Swallow, Ms. Yue and Luke Churchill gave oral presentations at nationals. The five other members of the 8th grade team include: Thomas Churchill, Stephen Dunn, Thomas Thornton, Hanson Wang and Nick Wilber. Besides being coach by IB teacher Mr. Hager, the team is advised by professional engineer mentor, Dane Horna of S&ME Inc.
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Jan. 23, 2010, “Davidson IB wins 3rd straight NC Future City title.”
Watch a video report on Davidson IB’s victory at the 2010 Future City state finals in January, CLICK HERE>
DAVIDSON IB FUTURE CITY TEAMS