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University Relations

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Feb. 2, 2006
Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

Overland Park middle school students win Future City engineering competition at KU

LAWRENCE — A team of eighth-graders from Westridge Middle School in Overland Park won the top honor Jan. 28 at the third Great Plains Regional Future City Competition at the University of Kansas.

The winning team of David Blank, Leigha Empson and Emily Miller, led by teacher Vonda Morris, now advance to the national competition Feb. 20-22 in Washington, D.C. The event coincides with National Engineers Week.

Nearly 200 students in seventh and eighth grade from Kansas and the Kansas City metropolitan area took part in the annual regional competition that tested their ability to design and build a city of the future.

“The creativity, ingenuity and hard work on display at the competition is a sign of the great results we can expect from all these students,” said Robert Sorem, associate dean for undergraduate studies at the KU School of Engineering, which hosted this year’s event. “All the contestants — not just the winners — should be proud of what they were able to accomplish. They did an amazing job.”

Students on the first-place team each won a $1,000 scholarship should they choose to study engineering at either KU or Kansas State University. Westridge Middle School also received $500 from KU and Kansas State to further engineering and technology education.

The first-place team also was a favorite with the other students at the contest. The team’s model city, which they named Zenith, won the Student Choice Award.

KU and Kansas State also made contributions to support engineering education programs at schools of the other teams in the top five:

— Holy Trinity Catholic School, Lenexa; second place; $500
— Trailridge Middle School, Shawnee; third place; $250
— West Junior High School, Lawrence; fourth place; $250
— Oxford Middle School, Overland Park; fifth place; $250

Saturday’s event at KU was the final phase of the regional competition that began last fall. More than 50 teams completed several different tasks as part of the Future City Competition. In addition to using the computer program SimCity 3000 to dream up a city of the future, students wrote an essay and an abstract, constructed a physical model of their city using recycled materials and prepared a five- to seven-minute oral presentation to be delivered before two panels of judges. The students strengthened interpersonal communication skills by working in teams to complete their projects and prepare their presentations.

Nationwide, more than 30,000 students and 1,000 schools take part in the competition, which is sponsored by Engineers Week, a consortium of more than 100 engineering societies and corporations. For more information, contact Great Plains Regional Coordinator C.W. Harper,, or call (785) 393-9139. National competition information also is available at

A variety of awards recognizing excellence in a particular aspect of the competition also were presented during the regional awards ceremony. Winning teams are listed by their school name, future city name, award(s), teacher, mentor and award sponsors (when available)

Democritus City team: Claudia Baca, eighth grade; and Brad Roetzer and Justin Dewell, seventh grade; won the Mother Earth Award; teacher: Mary Schneiders; mentor: Joe Finley, City of Dodge City — National Society of Professional Engineers; award sponsor: GBA

Sunshine team: Ashley Ontiberos and Erica Alarcon, eighth grade; won the Ernest Howard Award; teacher: Mary Schneiders; mentor: Joe Finley, City of Dodge City — National Society of Professional Engineers; award sponsor: HNTB consulting firm

Genesis team: Ann Sizemore, Lindsey Mayfield, Julia Griffin and Nick Loughman, eighth grade; won second place and the University Award; teacher, Randy Weber; award sponsor: Kansas State College of Engineering

Azarocka team: Kara Feuerborm, seventh grade; and Adam Farnow, Rebecca Moore and Zac Cooper, eighth grade; won the Outside the Box Award; teacher: Joseph Peterson; award sponsor: bnb design

Lake Paradise team: Kyle Davis, Jason Hoffman and Cole Elliott, eighth grade; won the Vincent Bowlen Award; teacher: Paula Nordstrom; mentor: Michelle Hoffman; award sponsor: Lisa Marie Harper

Walvissen team: Chris Ouyang, Sam Gard and Ryan Graham, eighth grade; won fifth place; teacher: Helen Hardgree

Sayiqan Ami team: Megan Gahliger, Amanda Sevcik and Jenny Beesley, eighth grade; won the Camelot Award; teacher: Helen Hardgree; mentor: Jim Jensen, Engineers Foundation of Kansas

Divine team: Ellen Bergkamp, Jackie Piszczek and Kellie Graham, eighth grade; won the Lubliner Barrett Award; teacher: Kathy Kelly; sponsor: Howard Lubliner

Yorky team: Bethany Hermreck, Andrew Blick and Angie Zandt, seventh grade; won the Charles Hagen Award; teacher: Kelly Dandurand; mentor: Jacob Borchers, Parsons Brinkerhoff Quade Douglas Inc. — American Society of Civil Engineers; award sponsor: KH Engineering Group

Expono Abs team: Anthony Frook, Ben Schmitt and Jacob Lindenlaub, seventh grade; won third place; teacher: Virginia Hammes; mentor: Sean Blair, P.E. of Oneok Inc.

BetDonCeon team: Brett Lightle, Cameron Weekly and Dylan Swoyer, eighth grade; won the Penny Pincher Award; teacher: Virginia Hammes; mentor: Darla K. Holman, PE — NSPE; award sponsor: Agri Tax Solutions

Gronnevedsjoen team: Dylan Guthrie, Dravid Joseph and Sam Walter, eighth grade; won fourth place and the Christy & Cronin Award; teacher: Joan Parr; mentor: Dan Sabatini, Sabatini Associates; award sponsor: Rich Christy and Dave Cronin

Zenith team: David Blank, Leigha Empson and Emily Miller, eighth-grade; won first place and the Student Choice Award; teacher: Vonda Morris; mentor: William B. Empson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — Associate of State Dam Safety Officials and Society of Volunteer Engineers; award sponsor: ASCE Kansas Section

Kailani team: Helen Paolo, Jessica Sutter and Victor Zaharopoulos, seventh grade; won the Garrett A. Morgan Award; teacher: Vonda Morris; mentor: Sheryl D. Gallagher, P.E. with Geotechnology — NSPE, ASCE, AEG; award sponsor: Parsons Brinckerhoff

Nautilus team: Michael Atchley, Kaitlin Beeman and Austin St. John, seventh grade; won the Eisenhower Award; teacher: Vonda Morris; mentor: Casey Jones, Geotechnology — ASCE and Associate of Drilled Shaft Contractors; award sponsor: Kansas Department of Transportation

Torsion Francaise team: Brooke Benson and Russell Shuttleworth, seventh grade; and Sally Carmichael, eighth grade; won the Frank Lloyd Wright Award; teacher: Vonda Morris; mentor: Scott Beadleston, Kleinfelder; award sponsor: Jackson Engineering Group

Ville Royale team: Canaan Coker, Andrew Franchett and Mary Lipp, seventh grade; won the Dean’s Choice Award; teacher: Vonda Morris; mentor: Guy Voss, Black and Veatch — Water Environment Federation and Engineers Club of Kansas City; award sponsor: KU School of Engineering


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