Sunday, January 27, 2013

Engineering Our Future Cities

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:
  1. Design a City - - The team develops a future city design using the SimCity 4 Deluxe software.
  2. Build a Physical Model - - The team builds a scale model of a section of the city.
  3. 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:
  1. How does your design provide environmental protection?
  2. Do your city systems utilize renewable energy?  Water reuse?  Waste-to-energy, etc.?  Are the city's infrastructure systems integrated in a holistic manner?
  3. 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?

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