Dublin middle schoolers' moon community wins state Future City competition

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Dublin students (from left) Emily Carr, Evan Spielberg, Alex Carr and Reid Spielberg, 11 recently won the state Future City competition.

What would a city on the moon look like? 

Four Dublin middle-school students who considered the question did so in award-winning fashion at the 2021 Future City competition, sponsored by DiscoverE. 

Team members are 14-year-old Evan Spielberg, an eighth-grader at Davis Middle School; his brother, 11-year-old Reid Spielberg, a sixth-grade student at Davis; Emily Carr, 14, an eighth-grader at Sells Middle School; and her brother, Alex Carr, 11, a sixth-grader at Sells. 

The four, who have been friends since early childhood, won the Future City Ohio Region contest in February, representing the Dublin Remote Learning Academy. 

Indian Hill Middle School in Cincinnati, placed second and Crestview Middle School in Ashland placed third. 

The Dublin Remote Learning Academy team also placed first in seven specialized subcategories: best use of water resources, best infrastructure, best use of ceramics, best use of energy, best use of recreation, most environmentally friendly and best land-surveying practices.  

Students met several times a week, mostly via Zoom, beginning in October. The model made by students was named V.E.C.T.O.R., for vast exploration of the cosmos through orbital residency.

Emily Carr described VECTOR as "a vertically oriented city which is largely underground."

"It has a different specialized level for each of six development zones: government (on the moon’s surface), infrastructure, entertainment, residential, commercial and industrial, Carr said.

Carr said the model was constructed with recycled materials. Each circular level was created using sushi trays spray-painted silver and covered with buildings made of various pieces of decorated plastic components, bottle caps, among other items.

"In addition to the overall city model, we created two stand-alone model components with additional moving parts," she said. "The proposed primary mode of transportation within each zone is moving sidewalks. We modeled this by creating a conveyor belt-style moving sidewalk using corrugated cardboard in a really innovative way.

"By peeling off the back layer of the cardboard, we revealed the ridges within the cardboard. We then used the exposed corrugation to make a belt and gears that fit together perfectly to serve as the inner workings of the conveyor belt as it turns."

The Future City Competition is a national, not-for-profit education program. More than 40,000 students from 1,350 middle schools typically participate in the competition nationwide, according to its website, discovere.org. 

The competition, launched in 1992, starts with a question: How can we make the world a better place? 

To answer it, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students imagine, research, design and build cities that showcase their solutions to a citywide sustainability issue. The 2021 theme is “Living on the Moon.” 

Past topics have included stormwater management, urban agriculture, public spaces and green energy, according to the DiscoverE website. 

The team was the first from Dublin to advance with 41 other teams to the national competition April 7; it did not place nationally but did earn top recognition in a specialized category, “Mission Possible: Positively Impacting the Community.” 

“I love competing in anything, and I enjoy art and engineering, all of which were part of the Future City Competition,” Emily Carr said. 

“I liked the challenge it presented (and) making the films for our presentation,” Alex Carr said. 

Evan Spielberg said the competition taught him time-management skills and how to meet deadlines. Reid Spielberg said he enjoyed making a model with moving parts to illustrate a “moving sidewalk” in the team’s entry that would allow people to travel faster in a city where vehicles were not allowed. 

Mindy Carr, mother of Emily and Alex, was instrumental in creating a local team after learning the district didn’t have one. Because of the use of remote-learning caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, organizers allowed parent-led teams, she said. 

Mindy Carr, an environmental engineer, was the team’s engineering mentor and Elaine Spielberg, mother of Reid and Evan, was the parent mentor. 

In past years, students have submitted their projects in advance for remote judging, then attended in-person interviews. This year, materials were submitted in advance but interviews were done via video conference, Mindy Carr said. 

“This was a very involved project that took countless hours of commitment and effort,” she said. “Our team met weekly on Zoom for multiple hours and put in significantly more time each week on their various deliverables.  

“I think that it gave them something to focus on that was within their control at a time when so much was not, which was good.” 

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekCorvo