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Iowa middle school wins IEEE-USA National Engineering Award

Harding Middle School of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, won the IEEE-USA Best Communications System Award during the National Engineers Week Future City Competition National Finals on Feb. 20. The award was presented to Harding at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill for the most "efficient and accurate communications system."

The team included students Emily O'Brien, 13; Courtney Strait, 13; and Stephanie Wenclawski, 14; engineer-mentor Gary Bishop; and teacher-sponsor Jean Oberbroeckling. Bishop is an IEEE member who works for Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids.

The Future City Competition, which IEEE-USA introduced to Engineers Week (EWeek) in 1993, is designed to encourage the future generation of engineers. Seventh and eighth grade students create their own vision of a future city, working first on computer and then constructing three-dimensional scale models. More than 1,100 schools and 30,000 students from across the United States competed during the 2007-08 season. Pilot programs are underway in Egypt, Sweden and Japan. A spin-off, "Future Cities 2020," is underway in India.

Harding earned its trip to Washington by winning the Iowa regional competition last month. Its city, "Celestial," is set in the Amazon rainforest in 2074.

Celestial's communications system features "xMax," which the students described in their city brochure as providing "a fast, non-line of sight connectivity between a user and a cell tower. Because xMax utilizes single cycle modulation, it requires significantly less radio frequency (RF) energy."

The system also features "Smart Home Programming," which can be activated from a cellular device to turn on your lights and heat, turn off your water system, notify you in case of a problem in your home, and contact a worker to make the necessary repairs.

IEEE members Amarjeet Basra of Annandale, Va., and Ananthram Swami of Silver Spring, Md., selected Harding from among the 36 teams that competed at the finals. The judging was done Monday.

"We were impressed that they thought about non-line of sight issues, energy and propagation range," Swami said. "Plus, they had built-in redundancy."

Basra complimented the students on their thorough presentation. "They had good ideas and presented them well," he said. "All three students participated and they were able to answer all the questions."

IEEE-USA President Russ Lefevre presented each team member with a plaque. The students will each later receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond. Harding also won the People's Choice Award, an honor voted on by all the Future City National Finals students.

Heritage Middle School of Westerville, Ohio, won the overall competition for their future city, "Ra." See or for additional information.

When the first Future City Competition was staged, about 600 students and 175 schools participated across five regions. For more on the early history of the program, go to

Mike Andrews, chair of the Future City Advisory Board and coordinator of the Phoenix region, is one of many IEEE members who hold leadership roles within Future City. The other IEEE-member regional coordinators are: Sonya Hutchinson (Alabama region), Dan O'Malley (Northern California), Osama Mohammed (Florida), Todd Hiemer (Oklahoma), Jean Eason (North Texas), Zafar Taqvi (Houston) and Karen Pavletich (Washington State).


Contact: Chris McManes

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