Our Future Cities Are in Their Hands

In February, countless engineers shared their enthusiasm for STEM (science, engineering, technology, and math) and their dedication to inspiring future generations during Engineers Week 2019. Among all of the events associated with E-Week, it’s difficult to imagine one that generates more excitement, inspiration, and reason for optimism than the finals of the 27th annual Future City competition, which took place on February 18 in Washington, DC. 

Students design resilient cities

Organized by DiscoverE, Future City is a project-based learning experience where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade are asked to imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future. Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, teams address a fundamental question: How can we make the world a better place? Over the past year, more than 40,000 middle school students from 1,500 schools in 41 U.S.regions, as well as teams from Canada and China, joined the challenge.

This year’s theme, Powering Our Future, called on students to design innovative ways to power a future city that could withstand and quickly recover from the impacts of a natural disaster. Students were encouraged to think comprehensively. In addition to designing the physical infrastructure, power grids, food and water sources, transportation routes, and emergency and security systems for their city, the teams also considered the social and economic fabric of their model cities —as well as the roles that engineers from across disciplines would play in achieving their vision.

The winning teams

The regional competitions culminated with 43 teams invited to the finals, where five teams were selected to make presentations before a panel of judges and an audience of 1,000 students, teachers, parents, and Future-City fans. In the finale, Toyama, a tsunami-prone city of the future engineered by students from the Central Pennsylvania Region’s Warwick Middle School (Lititz, PA), won the Grand Prize. The winners were awarded a trip to U.S. Space Camp and $7,500 for their school’s STEM program (provided by Finals sponsor Bentley Systems, Inc.).

Second place went to Alabama Region students from the Academy for Science and Foreign Language in Huntsville. That team designed a Wizard-of-Oz-themed city that was geographically prone to tornados. Teams from the New Jersey, Idaho, and Mid-Atlantic regions rounded out the top five. As with all STEM-outreach activities, Future City has ongoing opportunities for engineering and technical professionals to volunteer year round as mentors, champions, and regional coordinators.

For information about Future City or to volunteer, visit www.futurecity.org.

How did you celebrate E-Week 2019?