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Wood Dale Junior High once again heads to national finals of Future City competition

Wood Dale Junior High team headed back to national Future City finals
Wood Dale Junior High team headed back to national Future City finals 03:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Jordan-era Chicago Bulls, the New York Yankees of the 1950s, this century's New England Patriots; all dynasties. You could add another team to that high-achieving list: young students from Chicago's northwest suburbs.

Wood Dale Junior High School students are excelling in math, science and engineering. The word is out: these 12- and 13-year-olds are a powerhouse.

"People are now starting to say, 'Here comes Wood Dale.' Wow," said teacher Dan West.

For three years in a row, Wood Dale Junior High has won the regional Future City competition. Once again, they're heading to Washington, D.C., this year to represent Illinois in the national finals.

Why have they been so good in the competition?

"There are a bunch of reasons, but I think one of the main ones is that Mr. West encourages us and keeps us going, even whenever things get tough," said 12-year-old Adalina Khaliqdina.

Under West's directions, the team has excelled in finding solutions to vexing problems; displaying their mastery of STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math. This year, they're taking on climate change and global warming.

"We found a bunch of different ways to mitigate and adapt to climate change," Adalina said. "Such as we got rid of fossil fuels using something called quantum batteries, and we found so many energy sources and ways to take CO2 [carbon dioxide] out of the air and convert it into energy."

As we first told you a year ago, it's a grueling competition:

The students have to make a presentation, write an essay, answer tough questions from experts, and build a model of their future city.

West said that was especially impressive this year.

"You should have seen the eyes of the people when we brought that model in this year. They were awestruck. They really were," he said.

Adding to the challenge: this year they did all of that in-person, face to face with demanding judges, after two years of online presentations.

Did 13-year-old Alexandra Barrios feel any pressure because of how the teams had done in the past?

"Just a little bit," she said.

But it was pressure Wood Dale Junior High conquered. They've learned to manage their time, and sacrifice in an extracurricular activity.

"I'd come in during lunch. I'd come in early in the morning. I'd come in after school, and I lost sleep, and stuff like that, but it was it was all worth it in the end, because I think winning that ended up being one of the best experiences I've ever experienced," Adalina said.

The team is largely made up of girls, at a time when schools and companies are making a big push to encourage young women to enter STEM fields.

They've set a high bar for the rest of their lives.

"They've really pulled together, and they really worked hard to get these goals done," West said. "I couldn't be more pleased with the team, and the way that they worked this year — they did a phenomenal job."

The Wood Dale Junior High School team heads to D.C. for the national Future City competition this weekend.

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