California school wins IEEE-USA Future City Competition Award


WASHINGTON (25 February 2005) -- Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School of Oceanside, Calif., won the fifth IEEE-USA Best Communications System Award at the national finals of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition on Wednesday. The honor, one of 31 special awards presented at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Va., was for the most "efficient and accurate communications system."

Students Karina Coscuna, Alisa Wyman and Peter Vo comprised the team with King teacher sponsor Joanne Norlander and engineer mentor Paul Vo. The team advanced to Washington by winning the Southern California regional competition last month. Its city, Constante Fonte (Portuguese for "Constant Source"), is set in the Amazon rain forest in 2150.

The city's "NET" communications system, which stands for "Nano Ear and Teeth," consists of a nanotechnology-based chip embedded in a person's eardrum and tooth. A wireless voice signal is transmitted to a communications tower, then to the "head end" at city hall, back to a tower and out to the recipient. The system, as described by the students, can translate any language into the hearer's native tongue.

The award, funded by the IEEE-USA Precollege Education Committee, was judged by IEEE members Lowell Smith of Fairfax, Va., Lee Stogner of Greenville, S.C., and Ananthram Swami of Silver Spring, Md.

"The students' ideas were practical and they had a good grounding in what was possible," Stogner said. "They recognized they had to build on an existing technology to provide a communications infrastructure that people could use in the office and on a personal level."

IEEE Senior Member Michael Andrews, co-regional coordinator of the Phoenix area competition, presented each team member with a plaque. Each student will also receive a $100 U.S. Savings Bond. King also garnered the Most Innovative Power Generation System Award from the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program.

Other IEEE members serving as regional coordinators included Jean Eason (Dallas/Fort Worth); Todd Hiemer (Oklahoma); Osama Mohammed (Florida); and Zafar Taqvi (Houston).

The Future City Competition, which IEEE-USA introduced to Engineers Week in 1993, is designed to encourage the future generation of engineers. Seventh and eighth grade students create their own vision of a city of tomorrow, working first on computer and then constructing three-dimensional scale models. About 30,000 students competed this past year. A longitudinal study of the Future City Competition, funded by the IEEE in 2004, found that half of the respondents who had participated in the competition said they would like to pursue engineering in high school and college.

Louisiana regional champion St. Thomas More School won the overall competition Wednesday. Go to for more information.

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