St. Lucy students' green city wins awards

Students from St. Lucy Day School won awards for a futuristic city they designed: (from left) Damir Hurley, Christian Partlow, Rebecca Weber, Tyler Rzepski, Bridget Cassidy, and Quintin Robinson.
Students from St. Lucy Day School won awards for a futuristic city they designed: (from left) Damir Hurley, Christian Partlow, Rebecca Weber, Tyler Rzepski, Bridget Cassidy, and Quintin Robinson. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 10, 2013

Picture yourself creating a city with nothing but recycled materials and your imagination to help you along the way.

For the pupils at St. Lucy Day School in Juniata Park, the focus was on confidence and pride - and developing a new city in Argentina named Fresco y Limpio, meaning "fresh and clean" in Spanish. It was fashioned from mostly recycled materials, including boxes, bottle caps, broken computer parts, and newspapers.

The eight St. Lucy's pupils won two awards at the Jan. 26 Future City competition, for best use of recycled materials and best use of technology in transportation.

These honors were an impressive feat for the school and its visually impaired students; the sixth through eighth graders were the only group with disabilities among more than 30 Philadelphia-area schools in the competition.

With guidance from teacher Diane Muller and engineer mentor John Getty, a volunteer who has worked with the school for the last five years, the St. Lucy's students worked on the project from September to January, often giving up their lunch and recess periods.

Sister Meg Fleming, the principal of St. Lucy's, was proud of the students' accomplishments.

"It builds confidence," she said, "to know they are on equal footing with their sighted peers." She called it a wonderful opportunity, and said she hoped that through this competition, the students would continue to fall in love with engineering.

The students were first encouraged to create a Sim City model to learn about the infrastructure and zoning of a city.

The Future City Competition theme this year was "Rethink Runoff," encouraging participants to create cities that would be environmentally friendly and constructed in a way conducive to solving runoff issues.

Located on the Atlantic coast, St. Lucy's city included a school, museum, town hall, businesses, and residences.

"Argentina is a very subtropical climate," said Rebecca Weber, 15, one of two student project presenters. "They get 40 to 50 inches of rain a year."

Bridget Cassidy, 14, the second presenter, explained that Argentina's urban areas were also inspiration for their project. Their biggest goal with Fresco y Limpio was to "make urban areas more green," so that the city was more environmentally friendly.

The students' proudest creations in their city were canals that replaced roads, with bottle-cap boats and fishing line lanes that moved throughout the city.

Damir Hurley, 14, said "building moving parts," such as the boats in the canals, was his favorite thing to develop.

Another aspect of the city was porous pavement that allowed rainfall to seep into the ground, eliminating runoff. The city contained a completely green building covered in moss, and three types of clean energy: solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal. St. Lucy's was the only group to include solar panels and canals in place of roads.

Weber and Cassidy have participated in the competition for the last three years. One of their proudest moments was creating a "demolecularization" center, where cells containing sickness are destroyed, leaving only healthy cells behind, restoring any sick person to full health.

Muller expressed pride in her students' work, but said more important was how encouraged her students were with their success.

Weber, an eighth grader in her final year of competing, said that she was excited to win two awards and that her favorite part of the competition was that "there are no wrong answers, so we could do whatever we wanted."

Contact Hillary Siegel at 215-854-2771 or

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