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Another winning outlook for the future

Two area teams again are tops in contest

Feb. 1, 2011

Local youngsters once again swept first and second places in a statewide competition that challenges students to devise an entire city from nothing but an empty patch of land.

The team from St. Mary Parish School, Hales Corners, won first place in the Wisconsin Regional National Engineers Week Future City competition held at the Milwaukee School of Engineering for grades six to eight. A team from St. Alphonsus School, Greendale, captured second.

The schools came in first and second last year as well.

The St. Mary's team will soon be on their way to Washington, D.C., to compete in the 19th annual Future City National Finals, to be held Feb. 19-23. The team consists of Elizabeth Bertacchini of New Berlin, Emily Chmielewski of Hales Corners and Thomas Chelius of Franklin, plus their teacher Jeannette Van Hecke and engineer mentor Jeff Bertacchini, Elizabeth's father.

Possibilities now and later

Their winning future city looked at what is on the drawing boards and projected what could be.

The kids envisioned an entire freight delivery system underground with highways for trucks and even a magnetic levitation freight train, said Jeff Bertacchini, who mentored the youths on engineering principles.

The environment includes a solar-powered monorail and houses with indoor agri-domes in which families can grow their own food. Flying cars mean fewer roads.

Their city also has learning kiosks where people can watch presentations on just about anything they can learn in school.

Their execution of a model showing their two-tiered city won the team one of four Exemplary Model Awards.

All three say they would like to live in the city they created.

"We really focused on making it good for the citizens. The cars fly above so there is more room for running and jogging and everyone to have a good time with each other," Elizabeth said.

"It has elements of today that I like, such as the Performing Arts Center, nature trails and parks," Emily said. "But it also has residential units that are nicer for people to live in and safer." "There are a lot of things I like - an arts complex with a stage for plays and it could be used for rock concerts," Tom said, adding that it has a sports center and many hiking trails.

Although futuristic, the kids had to get down to practicalities by creating a city with roads, sewers, utilities, water mains, and planned out with zoning for housing, manufacturing and the like.

Besides designing a city, each team had to design a medical device. The team came up with something that is not that far off, Bertacchini said: a system for keeping the blood sugar of diabetics within acceptable limits.

The St. Mary's team won the award for the best essay and the Peer Award. Another team from St. Mary won an Exemplary Model Award and a third won the award for best use of recreational space.

This is the 16th year St. Mary Parish School has competed in the Future City contest, which this year drew 60 teams. This is the sixth time a St. Mary's has gone to nationals.

A future with a strong past

St. Alphonsus has competed in the program for 14 years and has been in the top four for 11 of those years, said teacher/adviser Mary Kay Peters. They took second last year and were first four years before that.

This year's team consisted of presenters Brian Myers of Franklin, Matt Macijewski of Greendale, Maddie Ramion of Milwaukee, with Loren Schuenke, Sarah Losiniecki, both of Franklin, and Nick Dalton of Greendale.

Their innovative city featured collecting energy from lightning. The kids researched how much electrical energy is in lightning and realized they could sell excess energy to other cities to keep taxes in their future city low.

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