Athens, OH 24 January 2013 – Last weekend, the Engineering Ambassadors had a great opportunity to inspire younger students to be more involved in engineering and technology. On the morning of January 19, three of us traveled to Columbus to judge the Future City Competition. This competition is a national learning experience for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students where they work in teams with a mentor to deign futuristic models of large cities. 18 schools participated this year. Students incorporate current and future technologies and must include a variety of engineering ideas and disciplines, and must explain how their city will sustain itself. They use Sim City 4 Deluxe to make an interactive city, write a solution to an engineering problem, build a scale model of a section of their city using recycled materials, and show their work to a panel of judges with a short presentation.
As a judge, I got to see several presentations throughout the morning, and I was impressed with the thought and effort that some groups put into their projects. There were many models that incorporated a working electrical component, and the requirement of at least one moving part per model was fulfilled in very creative ways. Groups used materials such as cardboard, lightbulbs, bottles and lids, silverware, and various other common trash items to build their models.
This year the big engineering problem to solve dealt with water runoff in large developed cities. Groups used porous asphalt, rooftop gardens, and strategic reservoirs, among other things, to help solve the problem. Their models were judged not only for overall neatness and creativity, but for specific awards such as Most Innovative Design of Infrastructure Systems, or Best Communications Systems. The winner of this Regional competition would be sent to US Space Camp in Alabama and get the chance to compete in the National Competition in February.
These middle-schoolers definitely impressed us with their ingenuity and creativity, and it was fun to see their different interpretations of the future and their solutions to modern problems.