Middle school students reimagine sustainable cities of tomorrow


February 4, 2015

Imagine going to the roof of your building to gather your daily vegetables from the sustainable aquaponic garden. Then, after a day of work, visiting your community’s relaxation center to wind down and reduce stress.

This is just one city created by middle school students who participated in the 2015 Arizona Regional Future City Competition on Jan. 16 at Arizona State University. Juwel City team Download Full Image

The annual national Future City Competition, an initiative of DiscoverE to promote engineering careers to young learners, joins volunteer engineering professionals with middle school students and their teachers. The teams design and develop cities in SimCity software and then bring them to life in tabletop prototypes made with recycled materials.

This year’s theme, “Feeding Future Cities,” asked the teams to design cities that provided one protein and one vegetable source for inhabitants.

ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, a unit of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, honored five teams with Walton Sustainable Community Awards for their application of community health and civic design.

The teams worked for four months programming their city in SimCity, sourcing recycled materials for the model and crafting their city’s narrative.

“Winning the Walton Sustainable Community Award made my team and I feel relieved and happy to see that all the extra hours after and during winter break at school paid off,” said Atziry Palomarez, a student in the Patria Verntia team. “We spent many hours perfecting our essay, model and presentation, and all that hard work and dedication showed us that many things can be accomplished.”

In addition to applying engineering, sustainability and science lessons, the students also developed life skills. Conducting the presentations in front of regional judges provided a warm-up for future presentations the young students may eventually give in the workforce.

“I learned to not let my nerves get to me during presentations,” said Megan Tarajcak, a member of the Leben Stadt team. “Once my teammates reassured me that we were going to be fine, I felt better and could remember my lines. If you just believe in yourself, and you’re confident about all your hard work, you will do much better.”

Some students want to become architects and designers after using SimCity and building the model cities.

“When I grow up, I would like to be a video game designer or a graphic designer because I find it interesting and I feel like I have talents working with computers and technology,” said Yesenia Moreno from the Patria Virentia team.

“I think it would be cool to be an architect when I grow up because while doing this project, I really enjoyed building our city,” said Ana Hoppes from the Juwel team. “My favorite part of building the city was seeing the different shapes we could make the buildings look like.”

Most of all, the competition taught the students to think outside the box to find solutions to a problem.

“I learned you have to be out there and let your mind go wild because you are creating a city of the future, where many of the things in your model haven’t even been built yet,” said Palomarez. “Ideas are combined to make one innovative city.”

The winning teams are:

“Juwel” City Team
Savannah Shelabarger, Isabel Younicutt, Ana Hoppes
Shannon Hull, teacher
Desert Wind Middle School, Maricopa, Arizona

“Leben Stadt” City Team
Janae Redmond, Megan Tarajcak, Paris Diaz
Jackie Nichols, teacher
Irene Ogata, engineer
Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School, Tucson, Arizona

“Emerald City” Team
Malia Dills, Raven Peters, Kaile Dills
Mary McBride, teacher
Claire Antaya, engineer
Mohave Middle School, Scottsdale, Arizona

“Patria Virentia” City Team
Maraya Carpio, Yesenia Moreno, Atziry Palomarez
Jackie Nichols, teacher
Irene Ogata, engineer
Billy Lane Lauffer Middle School, Tucson, Arizona

“MarSol” City Team
Jeremy Graunke, Natalie Crisci, Kaelan Lux
Kathryn Graunke, teacher
Matthew Graunke, engineer
Veritas Homeschoolers, Chandler, Arizona

Arizona Republic journalist to head business reporting bureau at ASU


February 4, 2015

A veteran Arizona journalist has been named founding director of an innovative business reporting program at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Christina Leonard, a reporter and editor at The Arizona Republic for the past 17 years, is leading the Cronkite School’s Reynolds Business Bureau, an immersive professional program in which students produce daily coverage of business and economics for regional and national media outlets. The bureau was established through a $1 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. Christina Leonard Download Full Image

“The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is pleased that the Reynolds Business Bureau will provide real world experience for business journalism students at the Cronkite School,” said Steve Anderson, Reynolds Foundation president. “This program compliments and expands upon the already excellent educational opportunities for journalism students interested in focusing on business reporting and economic topics.”

Leonard, who started last month, has held a number of leadership roles at the Republic and azcentral.com, including assistant business editor and editor-in-chief of two business magazines, Arizona Woman and bizAZ. Most recently, she was the Republic’s Phoenix-West Valley regional editor and also has served as Phoenix editor, state politics and government editor and night city editor.

At the Republic, Leonard played an integral role in a number of initiatives, including the paper’s technology guide and AZ Fact Check, a service that examines the accuracy of statements by politicians, partisan groups and government agencies. She was the lead editor on the recent coverage of Phoenix’s pension-reform measure and helped lead the Republic’s efforts to transition to a mobile newsroom.

“I'm thrilled to join the talented faculty at the Cronkite School, and I'm excited to work with the outstanding students there,” Leonard said. “These students are the future of journalism, and I'm already impressed by their passion, drive and forward thinking. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work at this innovative university.”

Leonard is the recipient of a number of journalism awards, including the Gannett Chairman’s Award, the John Kolbe Politics and Government Reporting Award and several Arizona Press Club awards. She is the former president, vice president and treasurer of the Arizona chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and was founder and former chairwoman of the Republic’s Diversity Committee. She has twice participated in AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program and was a Western Knight fellow at the University of Southern California Annenberg’s Institute for Justice and Journalism.

Leonard earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and following graduation was named a Pulliam Fellow at The Arizona Republic.

“Christina has long been a tremendous leader at The Arizona Republic, producing remarkable state and business coverage for Arizonans,” Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said. “We are thrilled to welcome her on as the founding director of the Reynolds Business Bureau and are excited for our students.”

Announced in July 2014, the Reynolds Business Bureau is the 10th professional immersion program to be established at the Cronkite School. The other programs include a nightly television news broadcast that airs on Arizona PBS, digital news bureaus in Washington and Phoenix, sports bureaus in Los Angeles and Phoenix, a strategic public relations agency, an entrepreneurial digital innovation lab, a digital production bureau and a newsgathering and civic journalism bureau.

The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, it has committed more than $115 million nationwide through its Journalism Program.

Reporter , ASU Now

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