Two veteran Future City competitors and their first-time teammate from the Aiken Area Home Educators “Emerald Gardens” team demonstrated knowledge and confidence in capturing first place at the S.C. Regional contest at USC Aiken on Saturday.

Eighth-graders Samuel Boyd, Marjorie George and seventh-grader John Potvin will move on to the national event in the Washington, D.C., area next month.

They and other teammates wrote essays and built a model city that’s 150 years in the future. The winning students and two runner-up squads – Kennedy Middle School’s “Kleitos” team and W.A. Perry Middle School’s “Crystal Waters” team from Columbia – also participated in the second round of presentations as finalists before about 400 people in the audience.

The requirement this year was to create a community that controls storm water runoff – either disposing of it safely or finding a way to make it useful.

“We came up with a Billabong water system,” Samuel said. “We thought it was a funny word and we started first looking at all kinds of words like that.”

Billabong is indeed a word common in Australia, meaning, appropriately, a small lake.

The S.C. Regional event is sponsored each year by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions and USCA with the goal of encouraging engineering design, math, science, teamwork and confidence.

The Home Educators outlasted 51 other teams from 20 schools. The three students and others on the overall squad were coached by Samuel’s mom, Vickie Boyd. Their mentor was Larry Morris, the retiring engineering and utilities director for the City of Aiken.

Samuel said he doesn’t know what to think about the opportunity to travel to Crystal City, Va.

Kennedy Middle School has had a nice run the last three years under the guidance of teacher Margo Gore. One of her teams took second in 2011 and then won first place a year ago. The newcomers finishing second on Saturday were Tevon Kelley, Meredith McCoy and Camilla Myers. Their mentor was Eugene White.

The W.A. Perry students were Jarquis Pope, Justin Simmons and Jarvis Legree, coached by Debra Evans.

For the first time, SRNS staffer and Future City coordinator Kim Mitchell announced the fourth-place finisher. Paul Knox Middle School’s “Aquadelphia” team missed the top three by two-tenths of a point. The team is comprised of Benjamin Formby, Abbi Fralick and Katie Wright, coached by teacher Amanda Davis and was mentored by Matt Bodine.

A total of 16 special award sponsors – most connected to the Savannah River Site – honored the students in various ways. A platinum award went to a Dent Middle School team from the American Concrete Carolinas Chapter.

“These students are both incredibly creative and highly dedicated,” said SRNS President and CEO Dwayne Wilson in a press release. “The attention to detail and level of sophistication that goes into these projects is truly amazing.”

Aiken County Schools Superintendent Dr. Beth Everitt also was impressed with all participating schools – including Aiken County schools Kennedy, New Ellenton Middle, LBC Middle, Paul Knox and North Augusta Middle School.

“I really appreciate the extra effort the teachers put in,” she said.