“Tablet tables with touchscreens that you can use like laptops.”

“Just bring your flash drive to class that has all your information in it.”

“A lot of state-of-the-art technology.”

“Fun and educational, so kids will have optimal ability to learn.”

“Anybody with any interest could go here, and still feel welcome and learn something.”

The ideas that iTech Preparatory eighth-graders Trey Wheeler, Madison Mirabella, Anh Vu and Miranda Dowler describe are more than just a wish list. They’re describing their school of the future.

The school design marries historical castle architecture with pop culture elements and thoughtful energy-conservation methods. The resulting model is reminiscent of Hogwarts, the school from the Harry Potter series. As in Hogwarts, students in this school of the future are divided among four “houses” of common interest: the arts; liberal arts; medical arts; and science, technology, engineering, and math.

Designing the school took several months. The project began in October 2013, in iTech teacher Mady Wohl’s visual arts and design class as teams prepped for the Council of Educational Facility Planners International’s School of the Future Competition. The competition—a mix of design, engineering, presentation, art and craft—offers students an opportunity to use creativity while challenging them to enhance their learning, conserve resources, be environmentally responsive and engage the surrounding community.

Wheeler, Mirabella, Vu and Dowler formed Team Tennant and began their project with only a sketch board, lovingly referred to as “The Baby.” Team Tennant devoted both school days and weekends to fleshing out countless details. They designed renewable energy for toilet water usage and measured an entire gym to build their model to scale. They also attended brainstorming meetings with professionals from LSW Architects.

“They came in on Saturdays to work on this, and they were there because they wanted to be there. This team has far exceeded my expectations!” says Wohl.

Team Tennant also exceeded the competition: first triumphing over 31 other teams at iTech, and then winning at the local chapter level. They followed up that victory with a resounding first-place finish at the multistate regional tournament. Next, the team will face international competitors at the CEFPI Annual Conference and Expo in October.

The project has become more than just a class project.

“We’re learning by doing things that are fun!” says Dowler.