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Don Pedro students fifth place in statewide engineering competition
Three Don Pedro students are already thinking about what the future might be like 150 years from now. Ritu Raj, Jazmin Gudino, and Henry Garcia placed fifth in the Future City Statewide Competition held at California State University, Stanislaus on Saturday, Jan. 22. The Ceres students competed against 27 teams of middle school students from throughout California.

The competition is a national, city planning event developed by the National Engineers Week Foundation.

Middle school students from around the state, from the far reaches of Milpitas, Los Angeles, and even Porterville, walked onto campus carrying carefully crafted models of their future cities. They dressed in suits and ties, carrying flipcharts for the oral presentation section of the event.

Leslie Collins, executive director of National Engineers Week Foundation, said the students were eager to present their models and ideas, "everything they've been working on over these months."

As engineers, students were tasked with designing these future cities from top to bottom, from infrastructure to homes and businesses with a special focus on the year's theme: health care.

Working with their teacher, Joanne Anderson, and an engineer-mentor, Raul Raya, the students worked on multiple aspects of the project over the course of four months with five other classmates. They first developed their city, "New Olympus," on Sim City software, and then wrote a 500-word narrative about it. They then researched a medical problem and came up with a futuristic solution to the problem of asthma. Their solution proposed that a nano-chip be implanted at birth to monitor, control, and hopefully prevent asthma attacks.

A 1000-word essay explained the details to the judges and was submitted just before winter break. Finally, a futuristic model representing a cross-section of New Olympus was built to scale using mostly recycled materials.

The competition included a five-minute presentation before a panel of three judges representing engineering and medical fields, followed by a 10-minute question and answer period. Judging continued when 16 additional experts asked the students questions about how their city planned for a variety of categories, such as sustainable food production, water management, use of alternative fuels, and infrastructure design.

New Olympus was awarded an Excellence in Accessibility Design award for their future plans.

The top five teams were selected based on scores from previous judging of the computer design and essays, and Saturday's judging of the physical model and the interviews. In front of the audience and five new judges the team was very excited to place fifth in the final round.

Don Pedro School, the lone team from Ceres, was the only sixth-grade team to make the top five.

Other students to be noted for their contributions include Mayte Puga Garcia, Emily Stone, Heriberto Suarez, James Diaz, and Adrian Alvarez.

When award-winners were announced at day's end Modesto's Hart-Ransom Charter School finished first overall with their city of "Serenity Falls." The win - which comes with a trip to compete in the Washington, D.C. national finals - was a shock for the cheering students onstage, who did not win a single individual category.