Struthers students build a future city, win an award
By jeanne starmack
Welcome to Hornet- ville. Population 100,000.
It’s the year 2153, and the city is doing well. There’s enough jobs to support the population, and the hospitals, roads and schools have all the funds they need.
The water-treatment plant is well-equipped to handle whatever the industrial section of the city churns out, and the river is clean.
The city gets its power from the sun, wind and coal. Residents are even driving the Hoover, a hover car that gets its fuel from solar and lunar panels on its roof.
It wasn’t always such smooth going in Hornetville. The city’s founding fathers, who designed and built it back in 2011 and 2012, had their share of problems as they tried to plan the new community.
They were young, this trio of engineers — Stephen Mistovich, 11; Marty Pavalko, 12; and Andrew Neider, 11.
The three of them, sixth-graders at St. Nicholas School in Struthers, didn’t know what they were getting into — they had never built a city before. But they persevered, through months of design work during classes, after school and at sleep-overs at one another’s houses.
Finally, in January 2012, their city plan was ready for the regional leg of the annual Future City Competition, sponsored by the National Engineers Week Foundation, in Columbus.
Shortly after that competition, they detailed the hard work — the frustration, too, that went into the making of Hornetville.
Their computer software was persnickety, quick to point out when their best-laid plans just wouldn’t work.
“We drew our virtual city over and over again,” remembered Stephen. The SimCity 4 software, which recognized the three as the city’s mayor, would quickly recall them from office if they did something wrong.
“They kick you out and make you the treasurer or something,” Stephen said.
“Sometimes it gets so bad it obliterates the city,” he continued. “Like, if you put in too many buildings at once, your money goes way down.”
Two circumstances would trigger an obliteration — a natural disaster such as a tornado, or the city’s money dwindling down to $2,000.
Their three biggest expenses were the hospitals, roads and schools.
“It was hard,” said Stephen. “Their funding was up, they needed more.”
“Then more people would come and they needed more money,” said Marty.
Then, there was the black river, Marty remembered.
“Don’t even ...!” Stephen quickly cut him off. With some prompting, they did talk about the problems they had when the industrial section of the city overwhelmed the water-treatment plant and the river ran black.
But, with help from their science teacher, Stephanie Creighton; the school’s technology support specialist, Ken Pavalko; and St. Nicholas alum Justin Ginnetti, an engineer with the Ohio Department of Transportation, they completed their plans.
“I tried to give them as much room ... to be self-starters,” said Pavalko.
Spending no more than $100 and using recycled materials such as Legos, Popsicle sticks, plastic water bottles, cardboard and felt, the boys built a model of their city with trees, large expanses of green, a community garden, a windmill, a sparkling blue river and buildings with roof shingles that could be changed from black to absorb heat in the winter to white to reflect it in the summer.
Residents might drive their Hoovers home to a drone that would cook their meals and clean for them.
These would be the richer people, actually — “say ‘economically advantaged,’” said Andrew. “It sounds cooler.”
They worked together on an essay about their alternative-energy sources — solar and wind power. They wrote a narrative about Hornetville.
They took their model to Columbus on Jan. 21 to present their work to panels of judges in the competition — its theme was “Fuel Your Future.”
Among four schools competing in the contest for the first time, they took First Place Rookie of the Year award.
Their experience prompted their teachers to vow that they would try the next year to get more students in the school involved in the contest.
“We are truly proud of how well our students did in our first participation in this competition,” said school Principal Elizabeth McCullough.
And yes, even though the work was hard, they had fun, and they got some ideas of what their own futures might be like.
“I’d like to make it to professional sports, but if not, I’d be a car designer or and architect,” said Stephen.
“I was thinking about engineering, but I’m not completely sure yet,” said Marty.
“I’d like to be a video-game designer or a car designer,” said Andrew. He was sure he did not want to go into engineering.