Fort Couch Future City

Fort Couch Middle School students pictured with their Future City project

A team of Fort Couch Middle School students won the 2023 Pittsburgh Regional Future City Competition and advanced to nationals in Washington, D.C.

Eighth-graders Ryan Katukota, Josh Beitler and Skanda Sathya Vagheeswar led the team’s presentation.

Fort Couch Middle School was among 13 teams representing schools from throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania at the regional event held Jan. 14 at the FedEx Ground Corporate Headquarters in Moon Township.

Future City is a national, project-based learning experience where students in grades 6, 7 and 8 research, write about, build and present cities set 100 years in the future.

Students design all aspects of the city, but each year there is a specific focus. This year, teams tackled the Climate Change Challenge by choosing a climate change impact and designing one innovative and futuristic climate change adaptation and one mitigation strategy to keep their residents healthy and safe.

In addition to placing first overall, the Fort Couch team earned two special awards – Best Futuristic City, sponsored by the GDP Group, and Best Use of Nuclear Science Technology, sponsored by the American Nuclear Society of Pittsburgh.

In total, more than 30 Fort Couch gifted students worked throughout the fall to transform the current city of Mogadishu into Biyaha Janada (Somali for paradise of water), existing 100 years in the future. Students were coached by Jason O’Roark, gifted and accelerated math teacher.

“They researched current cutting-edge technologies, extrapolated them 100 years into the future, wrote an essay, created illustrations, built a 2-foot-by-4-foot model, wrote a seven-minute presentation, and delivered it beautifully at the competition,” O’Roark said.

The students designed all aspects of Biyaha Janada while assuring that the city could overcome drought and famine, exacerbated by climate change and maintaining a negative carbon footprint.

“This theme is illustrated throughout the city in its advanced desalination plants, MOF water generators, hydrogen fuel cells, and biomass gasifiers that all generate water, and in their ocean farming, GMO saltwater rice, indoor vertical farms, meat labs, and water treatment plants that all help preserve water by using very little compared to their traditional counterparts,” O’Roark said. “In addition, other elements of the city are carbon neutral or carbon negative, such as the nuclear fusion plant, the carbon sequestered in the buildings’ concrete in the form of biochar, and the zeolite filters in our HVAC systems that actively remove carbon dioxide from the air.”

The Fort Couch team will compete at the national Future City Competition to be held Feb. 18-22 in Washington, D.C.

Visit to read about the city.

Almanac Sports Editor

An award-winning journalist, Eleanor Bailey has been employed by Observer Publishing Company since 1982. She is the sports editor at The Almanac and a contributor for the Observer-Reporter.

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