Southwest Middle School students earn several honors at Future City competition

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The students of Southwest Middle School’s Future City team have earned top honors, including best essay in the nation. 

Along with those honors, Southwest teams earned cash to support the Future City program and a special recognition at Monday’s school board meeting.


SWMS Principal Carissa Miles introduced several of the Future City students during the meeting. Their teacher, Dani Lotton-Barker, was unable to attend — she was “tutoring and serving the children of our community,” Miles said.

The theme for this year’s competition was “A Waste-Free Future! Teams will use the three principles of a circular economy to design a futuristic, waste-free city.” 

Three teams of 34 total SWMS seventh and eighth grade student engineers competed Jan. 22 at the Great Plains Regional Future City competition: team Mexico City, team Kiel, Germany, and team Balneário Camboriú, Brazil.

The eighth grade team, which “created a futuristic and culturally respectful vision of Mexico City,” won first place in the region and advanced to the national competition.

“The fifteen students on our team worked together to try to create a plausible and possible future for Mexico City where waste becomes a thing of the past,” the team wrote in a short description of their city. “We incorporated the work of many types of engineers and scientists as we designed solutions to waste management, traffic congestion, healthy and sustainable locally-sourced food production, medical care, land subsidence, and other challenges.”

Southwest Middle School students Katherine Stancil, Violet Meinershagen, Eli Stone, Jacob Wang, and Emi Stone address the Lawrence school board on April 11, 2022. With them are Christopher Storm and SWMS Principal Carissa Miles. (Screenshot)

Team Mexico City placed ninth of 41 teams competing in the finals. The students earned the highest score overall in the essay category and best integration of equity in designing the built environment using nature-powered solutions. 

“The team displayed an impressive understanding of the geology of their city’s location and presented creative ideas for plastic alternatives,” award presenter Torey Carter-Conneen, of the American Society of Landscape Architects, said in a short video announcing the winning team. 

The team also took eighth place in the presentation video category and 20th place in Q&A.

“Our dedicated team representatives got nerdy about all aspects of engineering, from aerospace to energy production to biotech, in order to compete for two full Saturdays in a row and intensive Q&A sessions with engineer judges from all around the country,” Katherine Stancil, an eighth-grader at SWMS, told the school board.


Kiel, Germany — a seventh grade team — won the American Public Works Association KC Metro’s best infrastructure award and National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying award for best land surveying practices.

The competition was online due to COVID for the second year in a row, Stancil said. 

This was Southwest’s seventh time making it to “this level of the competition,” Stancil said. 

Team Mexico City includes Aaminah Ahmed, Owen Bork, Logan Callaway, Aedan FitzGerald, Nicky Johnson, Sorcha Keating, Violet Meinershagen, Alex Oral, Liam Pleskac, Neel Sabarwal, Stancil, Eli Stone, Emi Stone, Tristan Thomas, and Jacob Wang, according to a news release from the school district, along with coach Angela Chowdhury. 

The school already has four teams, including about 50 students, lined up for next year, Miles said. Miles thanked Christopher Storm, owner of Storm Engineering Group, P.A., for supporting the program for the last 15 years. 

Storm noted Lotton-Barker’s dedication to the program. 

“She’s the ‘special sauce’ that makes Future Cities happen at Southwest. I wish she could have been here tonight, but she is a really dedicated educational professional,” he said.

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— Reporters Mackenzie Clark and Emma Bascom contributed to this post.

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