Many worry about the future of our cities and transportation systems.
Idaho’s fourth regional National Engineers Week Future City Competition™ on Jan.12 offered a welcome perspective. While conventional wisdom offers no shortage of doomsday scenarios for the years to come, middle school students are taking a hard look at the future and are determined to make it better.
The Future City Competition asked middle school age students to design cities of tomorrow, first on a computer using SimCity software and then in large tabletop models. Students also were asked to research and write an essay on “Keeping Our Future City’s Infrastructure Healthy: Using Nanotechnology to Monitor City Structures and Systems.”
In January, the students presented their models and defended their designs before multiple panels of judges. The winning team will represent the Idaho Region at the national competition in Washington, D.C. during National Engineers Week.
ITD Future City volunteers
In addition to the committee members, seven other ITD employees volunteered to join 60 local engineers from the community in judging the entries. Judging included:
“On Saturday I participated with six others from ITD as judges for the Future Cities competition. This was my second year as a judge, having returned after an enjoyable experience the year before,” Laragan reported.
“This year was even more rewarding since the ITD volunteer contingent had more than doubled in one year. Kathleen Slinger, Fran Hood and I teamed up as one of the judging teams for the oral presentation part of the competition and we were all impressed with the enthusiasm and abilities of these seventh and eighth grade students.
“It's good to know the future is in the capable hands of these talented and personable youngsters. Hopefully, next year there will be an even larger group of ITD employees helping with this event, since we still weren't quite the largest group from a single organization. Any of us who helped out this year will tell you that you'll get back more than you give.”
range of teams participate
The winning team, Techon from Boise Home School (Boise), received a team trophy, individual ribbons, a set of luggage and an all-expense-paid trip to the Future City National Finals in Washington, D.C. during National Engineers’ Week. Plaques and ribbons also were presented to the second- and third-place teams.
An additional 13 special awards, sponsored by local firms, were presented to participating teams for having exceptional innovations in their cities such as the Best Use of Nanotechnology, Most Environmentally Friendly Design, Most Accessible Design, Most Sustainable Building and Best Transportation System.
Sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation, the Future City Competition is the largest and most successful education program of its kind. The hands-on application of math and science often sparks a newfound interest among students, leading them to consider engineering solutions to some of the world’s most intractable problems, including sustainability and public health.
The competition sets enough parameters to make the lessons in math and science real, but within those parameters, the students are only limited by their imaginations.
For information on additional local Engineers Week activities in Southwest and Eastern Idaho, please visit the Idaho Society of Professional Engineers’ Web site at www.idahospe.org/.
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Photos: ITD volunteers for the Future City competition included, from left to right, Stephen Loop, Muhammad Zubery, Sue Sullivan, Greg Laragan, Kathleen Slinger, Erika Stoddard and Fran Hood (top). Randy Kyrias, administrator of ITD's Division of Public Transportation (at center in the center photo) was among the Future City judges.