Westerville's Heritage Middle School will represent Ohio in the National Future City Competition in Washington, D.C., beginning Feb. 18.

The Heritage team took first place with its city, "Sophia Vitae," in the State DiscoverE's Future City Competition held Jan. 20 at Eastland Career Center.

The team, led by teacher Anne Bates and engineer Erik McPeek from the Delaware County Regional Sewer District, also took first place for Best Use of Recreation and Best Computer City Design and honorable mention for Best Land Surveying Practices.

The research/design/building team includes Max Scholl, Dominic Steel, Dylan Penny, Lauren Arn and Dahlia Mohamed.

The research/presentation and essay team, which will travel to Washington, includes Kim Welch, Mahad Yusuf and Will Pyle with Margaret Mehlo as alternate.

The research/virtual city team member is Jeffrey Siefker and the research/logistics team includes Kelsey Schmidt, Caitlin O'Brien, Jon Stowers and Matthew Sliwinski.

As Ohio's winning team, they'll compete against the winning teams from more than 40 other regions or states, including some international teams from China, Canada and Egypt, said Christopher Germain, regional coordinator.

The team's airfare, hotel and other associated costs are covered by either FCC Nationals or FCC Ohio.

"What I can say regarding their win is that the school came into the Ohio competition in a strong position with the highest score of any team on their virtual city component and second highest on their essay," Germain said.

"The Ohio event had the strongest contingent of final five teams we've seen in quite some time and Heritage's team ended up with the highest presentation score of those top five -- quite an achievement."

The four-month long contest has several components.

Teams wrote a 1,500-word essay on the topic of "An Age-Friendly City."

This year's challenge asked participants to identify an age-related challenge that exists in today's urban environments and engineer two innovative solutions that would allow their future city's senior citizens to be as active and independent as they would want to be.

In addition to the essay, pupils completed a computer component using SimCity software, created an engineering project plan, built a scale model of their city using mostly recycled materials and prepared a presentation to share their city highlights at the state competition.

Bates said it was a student-driven project from beginning to end.

"The students all researched and would discuss their findings," she said. "When they would need to make a decision, they would have a few minutes to present their opinions and then the team would vote on a decision."

Throughout this process, Bates said, the students used writing and editing skills; word usage; uses of energy; technology skills; ratios and scale; engineering skills; presentation skills; team building and collaboration skills.

"The things that are taught in a traditional classroom came to life in this project," she said. "I was so honored to have my name attached to such a talented group of students who are going to have very successful futures.

Yusuf, an eighth-grader, said a solution to allow their future city's senior citizens to be active and independent was the top consideration.

"We thought about recreation buildings and moving sidewalks for people who can't walk or if they have a disability," he said.

Yusuf said his group worked on the script and didn't necessarily get to build the future city.

"My favorite was doing our part and them doing theirs and all of it coming together so well," he said.

Pyle said the city's name incorporates the words Sophia, a French word, and Vitae, a Latin word.

"It means age of wisdom," Pyle said. "We thought of what would be good in other languages. It was almost unanimous.

"My favorite part was how everything came together," he said. "It was all like a puzzle and all the parts fit together perfectly in the end."

Welch said she's excited about moving on to nationals.

"It will be the first time I've ridden in a plane and my first time that far east," she said. "What I enjoyed most about project was the presentation. My main contribution was helping write the essay and the presentations that lasts 6.5 minutes."

Steel, the head engineer, said he and other people presented ideas and they agreed on them.

"We tweaked it as needed to figure it out," he said.

"We have a lot of recycled materials from previous years. Sometimes we took materials from past models and sometimes we made them from scratch."

He said the model is made from plastic bottles, wooden blocks, gift-wrap tubing, cardboard boxes and Christmas tree ornaments.

Germain said some of the committee members in the state competition noted that the Heritage team made good use of movable sidewalks -- something that can be highly technical -- and they had a good division of labor in their presentation with a good balance of technical expertise and showmanship.

Teams from Westerville's Blendon and Walnut Springs middle schools also competed in the state competition.

Walnut Springs was recognized for best infrastructure.

The Future City Competition is a national, nonprofit education program, with more than 40,000 students from 1,350 middle schools typically participating.

For more information visit futurecity.org.