BOISE, Idaho — For middle schoolers, breaks tend to be a time to relax and goof off. But for Team Baru at Boise's Sacred Heart School, "some of our team members haven't been out to recess or been to lunch in the gym for like two or three months probably," said Sean Myler, 8th grade student on Team Baru.
Now, that commitment is paying off.
The group of eight middle schoolers just returned from Washington, D.C., where they placed 4th in the Nationals at the Future City competition-- a competition that brings more than 50 schools together, nationwide and beyond.
"It was really really exciting," said Molly O'Sullivan, 8th grade student on Team Baru.
With the theme of this year's event, they competed with their virtual city that they engineered to withstand the impacts of a natural disaster.
"We were all just really shocked and surprised that Idaho could get in the top five."
As an extracurricular lead by their science and math teacher, the middle schoolers chose Baru, a futuristic version of Jakarta, Indonesia, and designed it to recover from the impact of a tsunami.
"Tsunamis in Indonesia-- there have been several in the past six months," said O'Sullivan.
"You can't stop them, but you can help make them a lot less destructive," said Alyssa Murrin, 8th grade student on Team Baru.
Their city included gyroscopic active transports, using "AI technology [to] communicate-- and can transport 300 people during evacuations."
It also featured high-speed transit resistant to floods.
"We also have a hyperloop and a high-efficiency gondola system."
And housing that they say could save lives, featuring "retracting walls on the first two floors," said Megan Woodworth, 8th grade student on Team Baru.
"After being involved like this, I've realized the many opportunities that engineering has," said Claire Wimer, 8th grade student on Team Baru.
And with kids like these, Ms. Gado is optimistic about the future of STEM careers in Idaho.
"I think that's an important thing, to prepare them in high school and then beyond, and get them thinking about maybe I can do this as a career-- this might be fun."
Team Baru was also recognized with Future City's special achievement award for "Most Innovative Design of Infrastructure Systems."