Southwest Middle School team finishes in second place at Future City national competition

photo by: Contributed photo

Southwest Middle School's Team Lima poses with its second place trophy at the Future City national competition on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Solving water scarcity is not an easy task, but students at Lawrence’s Southwest Middle School were recognized this week for envisioning a solution to that problem in the future.

A group of Southwest students known as Team Lima placed second in the Future City national competition, which was held in Washington, D.C., this week, by envisioning a new water system for the city of Lima, Peru. For the competition, the students needed to consider how they would solve a water crisis for the city 100 years in the future.

Danielle Lotton-Barker, who teaches gifted classes at the school, said she was extremely proud of the students, who had to present their work to judges during a live broadcast on Tuesday. She said the competition asks the students to try to solve real-world problems that no one has figured out yet.

“This team really had to apply those thinking skills and project forward what we know about science now and what in a hundred years could come of that technology,” she said. “It really presses them to be very creative and very technical. I love that.”

Future City challenges middle school students to research and design cities of the future, with a focus on addressing sustainability issues, according to the competition’s website. This year’s theme was “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow.” Through the competition, the organization aims to test the students’ ability to apply math and science while also helping them develop problem solving, public speaking, and writing skills.

photo by: Event screenshot/Future City YouTube channel

Julia Kwan, an eighth grade student at Southwest Middle School, explains a water purification system Team Lima created for a future vision of Lima, Peru. The students presented the system during the national Future City competition in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

For its project, Team Lima developed a water purification system called PURWTR, which stands for Purification for Urban Reuse, Water Treatment and Regulation.

In the students’ vision, the city of Lima reaches a “critical water scarcity” after runoff from the Andes Mountains’ glaciers becomes sporadic because of climate change. That in turn lowers the average water level of the rivers Lima depends on, according to the team’s essay.

To combat this, the students designed the new water system to efficiently and sustainably provide billions of gallons of water on a daily basis. They also provided contingency plans if part of the system were to shut down.

photo by: Contributed photo

Student members of Southwest Middle School’s Team Lima show off its model city of Lima, Peru, for its submission in the Future City national competition. The students developed a new water system that would provide an efficient and sustainable water source for the city in the future.

The students said during their presentation that the system would be more efficient and sustainable because it would only need to rely on the city’s wastewater and water from the nearby Pacific Ocean. The students also designed a water-purification system for rural areas.

“Through testing and redesigning, PURWTR solved Lima’s water scarcity, becoming an example for systems worldwide,” the students said in their essay.

The Southwest program is no stranger to the national competition. The school has sent a team to the tournament six times, finishing fourth in 2014 and fifth in 2017, Lotton-Barker said. Additionally, the team has won at least one special award each year it has competed at the tournament. Along with finishing in second place this year, the team also won the Excellence in Resilience Engineering award and the Best City Essay award.

“This was a successful year, for sure,” Lotton-Barker said. “This is the highest we’ve ever gotten.”

photo by: Contributed photo

Student members of Southwest Middle School’s Team Lima crowd around its second place trophy that the team won during the Future City national competition on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Team Lima is one of three Southwest teams, all of which are made up of students who are in the same robotics class that utilizes curriculum from Future City. Lotton-Barker teaches the course alongside robotics teacher Jamie Shaw. The Southwest teams also have their own engineering mentor in Chris Storm, a Lawrence civil engineer.

Team Lima qualified for the national tournament by finishing in first place at the Great Plains Regional contest, which was held at the University of Kansas in January. Lotton-Barker said Lawrence schools performed extremely well at the regional tournament, with representatives from all four of the Lawrence’s middle schools finishing in the top five.

“It was really awesome,” Lotton-Barker said.

The students of Team Lima include: Monte Asisian, Dawson Bonnell, Connor Brown, Steven Duan, Ethan Hart, Roman Jasso, Julia Kwan, Jake Loos, John Platkowski, Cooper Stone, Elliott Storm, Braden Walton and Yejun Yun.

Watch Team Lima’s presentation at the Future City national competition


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