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Valley Middle School Teacer Helps Kids Design Solution to Storm Water Pollution

Judith Vihonski's squad won first place at the annual Future City Competition.

Oakland teacher Judith Vihonski and a dedicated group of students designed a new way of cleaning up storm water pollution that led them to the grand prize at a national engineering a prestigious award.

Valley Middle School teacher Vihonski, along with Anna Butler, 13; Padraic James Burns, 13; and Sophia Kotik, 14; and engineer and volunteer mentor, Robert Akovity; won the annual Future City Competition in Virginia earlier this month.

Teams had to design an environmental-friendly way to manage storm water by designing and creating a working table-top model of the system. They also had a to write an essay. 

Thirty-six teams participated in the competition and students put in hundreds of hours on the project. Students then had to present their idea on stage in front of judges and 1,000 people.

"It's just phenomenal how much time went into it," Vihonski said. "They knew so much as they went through every aspect of the project. There's a lot to it but it was a combination of learning."

The winners receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Alabama.

“This was the biggest project any of us have ever attempted and it required constant problem solving and innovating,” said Butler, one of the students on the winning team. “We learned to never settle for less than the best and to keep improving as we went along.”

Have a question or news tip for Oakland Patch? Contact editor Joseph M. Gerace at Joseph.Gerace@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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