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New York, Florida schools win awards at national student competition

Farnsworth Middle School of Guilderland, N.Y., won the ninth-annual IEEE-USA Best Communications System Award at the National Engineers Week Future City Competition National Finals on Wednesday.

Farnsworth was recognized for the most "efficient and accurate communications system" at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.

The team included students Zubin Mukerjee, Abigail Schooner and Joseph Sipzner; engineer-mentor Robert Sipzner, PE; and Tom McGreevy, the school's technology education teacher. Robert Sipzner is a civil engineer.

Farnsworth earned its trip to the nation's capital by winning the New York (Albany) regional competition last month. Its city, "Cibola," is set in 2237.

A hand-held "Personal Education Device," or PED, is the featured element of Farnsworth's communications system. The PED utilizes a contact lens to reconstruct important events into a video to help students learn. In addition, students can go on virtual field trips through holographic imaging. The holograms also allow youngsters to transport themselves virtually so they can communicate with others anywhere in the world.

Wally Lee and Monica Mallini, both of Alexandria, Va., selected Farnsworth from among the 38 regional championship teams that competed at the finals.

"They gave thorough consideration to the capabilities and limitations of the technologies, including a consideration of spectrum crowding and frequency collisions," Mallini said after Monday's judging. "This distinguished them from the other teams.

"They were focused on learning, and their presentation was very descriptive over several applications and features of the system."

IEEE-USA President Gordon Day presented Farnsworth team members with plaques. The students will later each receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond.

IEEE-USA also sponsored the third-place award in the National Finals' overall competition. St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School of Miami finished third and won $2,000 for its science and technology program.

The team, which captured the Florida regional competition, was comprised of students Susana Becerra, Nicole Fernandez-Valle and Lauren Rodriguez; engineer-mentor Maria Fernandez-Porrata; and teacher Susy Chu. Day presented them their awards for their city, "Vai Verde," set in 2275.

The Future City Competition, which was created in IEEE-USA's former Washington office in 1992 and staged for the first time a year later, is designed to promote technological literacy and engineering to middle school students. Under the guidance of an engineer and teacher, the children create their own vision of a future city, working first on computer and then constructing three-dimensional scale models.

The students also have to write an essay about a predetermined challenge the city might face. This year's theme was "to design systems to conserve and reuse our most precious resource," water. The final piece of the contest is a presentation before a panel of judges.

More than 1,100 schools and 30,000 students from across the United States competed during the 2008-09 season. Pilot programs are held in Egypt, Sweden and Japan. A spinoff, "Future Cities 2020," is underway in India.

Bexley (Ohio) Middle School won the national championship for its future city, "Novo Mondum." The five team members will receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., courtesy of Bentley Systems, Inc.


Contact: Chris McManes

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