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posted: Wed, Jan 31st, 2018

Victoria Tang, Akila Venkatraman, and Olivia Lin show off part of their future city, Kaleidescopia

Imagining the future

A group of MOMS students in the gifted & talented program took home the “Best Transportation System” award at the regional Future City Competition recently held at Rutgers University. 

In the competition, middle school students were challenged to use their knowledge of science, engineering, technology, art, and math – and a whole lot of imagination ­– to design and construct a city that is age-friendly. The winning MOMS team was honored for its city’s magnetic levitation rail system and extensive use of driverless cars – systems designed to help senior citizens stay mobile and independent.

Four MOMS teams entered the competition, with two advancing through the preliminary round to the regional round at Rutgers where they presented their conceptual cities to a panel of judges. Team members had to design their cities digitally using SimCity, complete 1,500-word essays, and construct scale models of sections of their cities using recyclable materials and a budget of less than $100 each.

The future city project allowed the MOMS students to tap into their imaginations and envision contemporary cities that were free from the problems typically associated with urbanization. Windmills and solar cells were featured prominently and generated energy without pollution. Multi-use buildings combined residential housing, commercial offices, and shopping centers, reducing the load on transportation systems. Parkland was strategically placed to help keep air quality clean. And the students used Google Earth to find suitable locations for their cities near bodies of water that would providing easy shipping of goods. 

“These kids are our future,” said teacher Ann Greszczak. “They’ll be the ones developing the cities of tomorrow. This project challenged students to examine current cities and anticipate the future needs of society.” 

Attendance at the regional competition was limited; six MOMS students presented their work, three on each team. While there, the students also attended several workshops including one on project management and one from PSE&G that allowed them to go hands-on with scientific objects including a Van de Graaff generator.

Olivia Lin, Victoria Tang, and Akila Venkatraman were the students on the honored team, Kaleidescopia, who presented at Rutgers. The other team members were Mollie Baduini, Adriana Chaparro, Marissa Coyle, Sahil DiSouza, Kyle Mears, and Jacob Sorriano. 

Team Olympus, which according to Mrs. Greszczak put on an “awesome presentation in front of the judges,” was represented at Rutgers by Michael Lazzarotti, Grace Lazzarotti, and Christopher Walsh.

This is the first year that MOMS entered the Future City competition. Nearly 40 New Jersey middle schools competed at the regional event. 

Victoria Tang and Henita Lawrence earned second-place in the Science Olympiad area tournament

Science Olympiad team advances to state finals

Imagine playing a Pictionary-type game and having to draw/guess the term “endoplasmic reticulum.” 

That very activity helped Henita Lawrence and Victoria Tang win a second-place award in the “Picture This” category at a recent Science Olympiad area tournament. Henita and Victoria led the MOMS team to a 9th place overall finish against other middle school teams from northern New Jersey. For its top finish, MOMS earned an invitation to the state finals.

At the area tournament held at Union County College in Cranford, Henita served as the artist and helped Victoria correctly guess other scientific terms including “greenhouse effect” and “omnivore/herbivore.” The two eighth-graders studied hundreds of scientific terms and engaged in many practice sessions to prepare for the competition.

MOMS students also had notable performances in two other categories:

Shana Soyfer and Melissa Patten finished sixth in Microbe Mission, a multi-faceted competition in which they had to solve problems and analyze data pertaining to microbes. As part of their activities, the students were presented with microscope views of microbes and were tasked with estimating their sizes.

Katie Keegan and Aveena Khanderia earned seventh-place in Optics. In addition to a written test, Katie and Aveena completed an assignment in which they had to set-up a series of mirrors that would direct a laser beam around barriers and hit a target. Since the laser wasn’t on, the students had to rely on their extensive math skills and knowledge of the reflecting capabilities of different shaped mirrors to set up the experiment. 

Katie and Aveena studied reference materials, watched videos on the physics of light, including those from the Khan Academy, and also had the help of a college physics professor to assist them in preparation. The partners were so accurate in their calculations, moving a single mirror just one centimeter would have allowed the laser to hit the target dead-on.

The state finals will be held at Middlesex County College in Edison in mid-March. Teacher Beth Cohen is the team’s adviser.


Mount Olive Middle School
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