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For Release: December 19, 2006
Students In Future City Competition Envision A World Where They Make Things Better
Worried about the future? Then consider a chat with a seventh- or eighth-grader in the National Engineers Week Future City CompetitionTM to get a most-welcome perspective.
While conventional wisdom offers no shortage of scenarios for the years to come, middle school students in the nationwide, not-for-profit engineering education program are taking a hard look at the future and the main result seems to be a determination to make it better.
Take, for example, Shelby Rauch, 14, from Mohave Middle School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her team’s future city runs on hydrogen fuel cells, but it’s not just a dream. “They could be a reality in a few years. It will pollute less and it’s 100 percent clean,” she says of fuel cell technology, adding, “If we don’t start taking action real soon, it’s going to affect us a lot 30 years from now.”
Future City, celebrating its 15th Anniversary in 2007, asks middle school students to create cities of tomorrow, first on computer and then in large tabletop models. Students present their models and defend their designs before a panel of judges – volunteer engineers from the community – at regional competitions in January.
Sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation, a consortium of more than 100 professional and technical societies and major corporations, Future City is the largest and most successful education program of its kind. Winning teams from qualifying regional competitions receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Future City National Finals, hosted by Bentley Systems, Incorporated, in Washington, D.C., February 19-21, 2007, during Engineers Week. National grand prize is a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Numerous other prizes are awarded at the regional competitions.
Some 30,000 students from 1,100 schools in 38 regions are participating, working in teams with a teacher and volunteer engineer mentor. They create their cities using the SimCity 3000TM videogame donated by Electronic Arts, Inc. of Redwood City, California. They also write a city abstract and an essay on using engineering to solve an important social need – this year's theme is how to use fuel cell systems to power a modern metropolis.
Jared Byerly’s class at Canyon Breeze Elementary in Avondale, Arizona, is one of hundreds across the country preparing a Future City. Jared, 14, says their city reflects what he expects will be reality in the next century, including hover cars, completely wireless communications, and hydrogen derived from water as a fuel source.
Across the continent at CCA Baldi Middle School in Philadelphia, 13-year-old Vinisha Patel says the competition has made her, too, consider what life may be like in the coming years. “When we create a future city, we think of what life could be 100 years from now,” she says. “I’d like to know what my grandchildren will be doing. I want to be one of those people who helps a future generation.”
And help she might. Vinisha says she has opened her mind to ways she can “make the world a better place,” and is now considering a career as “an inventor, scientist, a doctor, someone who can make better ways of living.”
Alexis Wallgren looks to make a positive impact, too. “I want to be a robot engineer,” explains Alexis, 13, another student from Canyon Breeze in Avondale. “I think it would be cool to help people in wheelchairs be able to do everything the rest of us can do.”
That new perspective on the future and a young person’s place in it is one of the greatest gifts Future City brings participants, notes Matt Scanlon, a teacher at CCA Baldi. “Future City gets students thinking in a futuristic mode.” Some of their ideas may be childish, Scanlon says, “but, they are still children.” Yet, he says, many of their most creative ideas are down to earth. One such example is how his students predict that the future of education will not be limited to the Internet and computers. “They decided they don’t want that,” says Scanlon. “They realize it’s not just reading books and writing papers. It’s learning socialization. You still need that human contact.”
Another of Scanlon’s students, Josh Goldberg, describes Future City as the “greatest,” in part, he says, because of the many talents that it calls upon, including writing the essay, working on computers and building the model. But, he says, the best aspect is the teamwork. “We have to interact with others,” says Josh, 14, “so we make new friends and relationships through brainstorming together. The hardest part is getting all our great ideas into one little city.”
Doreen Song, a civil engineer and community planner at JF Properties in Scottsdale and mentor for the Mohave Middle School team, says Future City brings out the best in cooperation and teamwork. “It’s an ‘aha!’ moment when they get it,” she says. “It’s not a technical thing, it’s about a relationship. To see them talk with each other and not at each other is amazing.” It’s a notion that will come in handy in real life, says Song. “I have to work in a team atmosphere, too.”
Mohave’s teacher, Mary McBride, is especially keen on the presentation component of the competition. “If you’re in seventh grade and you can present before a team of judges, you can do anything,” she says. “I’ve had students who are now in high school or college come back to me and say, ‘I learned how to present in Future City.’”
At Homestead Middle School in Homestead, Florida, teacher Leah Sapp says nothing compares to the impact of the presentation. “It’s terrifying and it’s wonderful,” she says. But, she notes, the challenge of “thinking on their feet and sharing information” makes the students better communicators and analysts. “You have to reach down pretty deep to get some of those answers.”
Future City also helps students face other demons, like math. “I used to be terrified of math,” says Homestead student Stephanie Edwards, 13. “Now, it’s not so bad,” she explains and then, after pausing, admits, “In fact, now I actually like my math class.”
Future City national director Carol Rieg says the hands-on applications of math and science often spark newfound interest among students, just as it opens their minds to consider engineering solutions to some of the world’s most intractable problems, including pollution. “The competition sets enough parameters to make the lessons in math and science real, but within those parameters, they are only limited by their imaginations.”
And for many of the students, it’s imagining a better world not just in the future, but here and now. At Philadelphia’s Baldi Middle School, Jordan Konell says he joined the competition because “it sounded like a cool thing.” Soon, he says, he discovered it offered much more. “I was wowed by the experience,” he says, “of coming together, providing ideas and discovering solutions. It’s more than just applied science, it’s working together to find a great solution that can help others.”
Jordan, 13, adds, “I gained friendships and I learned to work better with others. I learned that if we put our minds together, we can do it. That helps me not just academically, but in life. Future City helps me in life.”
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- These 38 regional sites are participating in the 2007 competition: Alabama, Albany/Capital District (NY), Buffalo, Northern California, Southern California, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Florida (Tampa Bay region), Georgia, Hampton Roads, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas-Great Plains, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northern Nevada, New England, New York City, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Omaha/Heartland, Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Texas-Houston & South Texas, Texas-North Texas, Washington, D.C., Washington State, and Wisconsin. For more information visit www.futurecity.org.
- The winning team (three students, teacher, and engineer mentor) from each qualifying regional Future City Competition receives an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national finals. National champion team wins a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, provided by National Finals host Bentley Systems, Incorporated, a leading engineering software company. Second-place team receives a $2,000 scholarship for the school's technology program, sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. A $1,000 scholarship for the third-place team's school technology curriculum is provided by The National Society of Professional Engineers. Numerous other prizes are awarded at regional competitions.
- The National Engineers Week Future City Competition is sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations dedicated to ensuring a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce by increasing understanding of and interest in engineering and technology careers among young students and by promoting pre-college literacy in math and science. Engineers Week also raises public understanding and appreciation of engineers' contributions to society. Founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, it is among the oldest of America's professional outreach efforts. Co-chairs for 2007 are the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) and Tyco Electronics Corporation. For more information visit www.eweek.org.
- Heading the Future City Competition Leadership Council is Bentley Systems, Incorporated (www.bentley.com). Shell Oil Company (www.shell.com) is a primary funder of eight regional Future City Competitions and a major contributor to the Future City National Finals. The 2007 Future City Essay sponsor is The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers – USA (IEEE-USA) (www.ieee.org).
- About the SimCityTM Videogame Franchise: Pursuing a lifelong fascination with simulations, legendary game designer Will Wright and his team at MaxisTM studios created the original SimCityTM in 1989. Critically acclaimed, SimCity garnered dozens of awards and sold millions of copies both domestically and internationally. SimCity 2000TM followed in 1993. SimCity 3000, released in 1999, became the #1 selling PC game that year. SimCityTM4 was released in January 2003 and continues to win awards and remain on top of the sales charts. SimCityTM4 Deluxe Edition, which includes SimCity 4 and the latest SimCityTM4 Rush Hour Expansion Pack, launched in September 2003 to rave reviews. These games are rated “E” (Everyone) by the ESRB.
- About Electronic Arts: Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is the world's leading interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, the company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for video-game systems, personal computers and the Internet. Electronic Arts markets its products under four brand names: EA SPORTSTM, EATM, EA SPORTS BIGTM and POGOTM. In fiscal 2005, EA posted revenues of $3.1 billion and had 31 titles that sold more than one million copies. EA’s homepage and online game site is www.ea.com. More information about EA’s products and full text of press releases can be found at http://info.ea.com. Electronic Arts, EA, EA SPORTS, EA SPORTS BIG, POGO, Maxis, SimCity, SimCity 2000 and SimCity 3000 are trademarks or registered trademarks of Electronic Arts Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.