I had the opportunity to be a special judge at the North Texas Regional (held at the University of Texas at Arlington where I am a member of the College of Engineering Advisory Board) Future City Competition as part of National Engineers Week. The Future City Competition is a national program sponsored by the engineering community to promote technological literacy and engineering to middle school students. The program fosters an interest in math, science, and engineering through hands-on, real-world applications.
The program involves teams and individuals to complete the following:
- Design a City - - The team develops a future city design using the SimCity 4 Deluxe software.
- Build a Physical Model - - The team builds a scale model of a section of the city.
- Communicate the Results - - Each student team gives a timed presentation of their city to a panel of judges. They will then answer questions from the judges related to the city's design or structureal contents.
The overall theme was stormwater management. I judged over 80 teams. Each was highly impressive. As a special judge, I was tasked with evaluating the cities in the context of three broad questions. The questions were:
- How does your design provide environmental protection?
- Do your city systems utilize renewable energy? Water reuse? Waste-to-energy, etc.? Are the city's infrastructure systems integrated in a holistic manner?
- When you are planning your city, did you consider livability? Does your city provide open spaces, accessible transportation, mixed-use space, etc.?
Three great questions to 7th and 8th graders - - three great questions for the 40-year old engineer working on any transportation project in any urban area in the world. A key question for engineering - - are we thinking as holistically about our future cities as a 7th grader?