A team of local students were among the top finishers in a recent competition to design cities of the future.

The team, from Navigator Upper Elementary School in Pinckney, took fifth place in the state at the Future City competition held earlier this month at the Novi Suburban Collection Showcase. The competition, sponsored in Michigan by the Engineering Society of Detroit, or ESD, is part of a national project-based learning program that challenges students in sixth through eighth grades to imagine, research, design and build cities set at least 150 years in the future. Using a budget of just $100, each team must build a scale model of their city, develop written and oral presentations on their cities, and create a virtual city in the Sim City computer game.

This year’s competition, “The Age-Friendly City,” asked participants to identify an age-related challenge that exists in today’s urban environments and engineer two innovative solutions that allow their future city’s senior citizens to be as active and independent as they want to be. The Pinckney students, new to the competition this year, also won the “Architectural Engineering of an Integrated, High Performing City" award sponsored by Lawrence Technological University and the "Rookie Team of the Year" award sponsored by the ESD.

A Pinckney student also had a hand in what was worn at the competition. Earlier in the month, 6th grade Navigator team member Bailey Keith won the art contest for the competition with the leading design for the State of Michigan's Future City t-shirt. All participating students from across Michigan wore the shirt designed by Keith during the competition.

Navigator's Team consisted of 24 students who worked after school and on their lunch hours with teacher mentor Lisa Merte, with support from building principal Ruth Badalucco. Navigator teacher Chris Simon and PCS director of instructional technology Michael Partridge also provided guidance to students in preparing various parts of their project. The team also received support from retired engineer Randy Paquette who served as a mentor, sharing his expertise with the students. Each school that participates in Future City is assigned an engineering mentor by ESD.

Pinckney Community Schools Superintendent Rick Todd said the team’s achievement is the result of the district’s focus on project-based learning and STEM education programs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) found throughout grade levels in the school district. “It is so exciting to see the number of STEM related experiences our students are engaging in throughout our district as we are continuing to grow and enhance these opportunities for students through activities such as robotics, coding, cyber-security, New Tech High, Mechatronics, Future City and so much more.”

Community members and others will have an opportunity to view the award-winning 3D model and Navigator student presentation at the Pinckney Community Schools Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 7 pm. (JK)