|For Immediate Release |
February 7, 2005
Students Engineer Future Cities And See How They Fit In
The 13th annual National Engineers Week Future City CompetitionTM comes to Washington, D.C. in February, representing the best designs from 30,000 middle school students at 1,000 schools across the United States. But that should not be confused with the most stellar students from the most elite schools.
Take, for example, the team representing Northern California, one of 32 regions competing at the Future City National Finals, February 21-23 at the Hyatt Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. Three students from Oakland’s Edna Brewer Middle School, an inner-city school where 75 percent of the children qualify for federally-funded lunches, will square off with students from wealthy neighborhoods, middle-class suburbs, public, private and parochial schools, and three home-schooled groups.
As varied as the regional winners may be, they all have one thing in common: A program that challenges them to explore science, math, engineering, arts, and writing and, at the same time, discover abilities they never knew they had.
Students create a city of the future using SimCity 3000 software – donated to each participating school by Electronic Arts of Redwood City, California. Working with a teacher and volunteer engineer mentor, the teams build a large, tabletop scale model, write a city abstract and an essay. At regional competitions in January, they present and defend their design before a panel of judges. Winning teams receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington for the National Finals, hosted by Bentley Systems
Incorporated, a leading engineering software company. Grand prize is a week at US Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama
“Future City proves that no matter what the economic background, students have the opportunity to succeed,” says Megan Jensen, the teacher that guided the Edna Brewer team. “These students weren’t even my best or my brightest, but they were hard workers.”
Jensen explains that while she always encouraged her three-student team, she privately wondered if they had any realistic chance at the regionals. But the students had done their homework. “They did a great job of presenting, and the judges responded to that.”
Jensen says that the competition gave her new insights. “It was an opportunity to show me different aspects of the students. I didn’t know how creative one boy could be. A girl who was very quiet became a real leader, very vocal. The competition allowed them to interact in a safe, comfortable environment.”
“We learned how to work together, to compromise,” explains Kyle Stuart-Willis, 13, one of the Edna Brewer team members. “I was never good at it, but I had never done that before.”
From Florida to New York to Arizona to Washington State, students, mentors and teachers praise Future City for lessons that go well beyond math and science. “Future City teaches children how to problem solve,” says James Garrett, Jr., associate dean for academic affairs at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering and mentor for St. Bede School from the Pittsburgh region.
“They learn how to do it step by step: What is the nature of the problem? Gather solutions. Which makes more sense? Then act. It’s a common sense way to solve day-to-day problems that will benefit students whether they go into engineering or not.”
“They had to rely on each other as a group, and it brought them together,” says Sister Carmel Regina, teacher for Epiphany Catholic School in Miami, from the Florida competition. “They grew.”
Future City also generates plenty of enthusiasm in the basics of education. “I used to loathe science considerably,” admits Carolina Ragolta of Epiphany, “but now it’s one of my stronger subjects.” Her teammate, Gabriella DiCarlo, 14, agrees. “Before Future City, I thought science was really boring. Now, I’ve learned it’s really interesting.”
Gabriella adds that Future City has changed her attitude about school itself. “I enjoy literature more. Writing, grammar – I see more in all my subjects. Future City helps me learn about everything.”
“It improved my vocabulary a lot,” says Lisa Lynch, an eighth-grader whose team from St. Thomas More School in Baton Rouge will represent Louisiana in the National Finals. “Before Future City, I wasn’t that crazy about math,” concedes teammate Kathleen O’Hara, “it was just something I had to go to every day. Now I’m excited to go to math, excited to learn more.”
“I got better at speaking in front of people,” says Annie Chen, 13, from Oakland’s Edna Brewer School. “We practiced in front of people from BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, employer of the team’s mentor), in front of classmates and parents. Now, I even think better.”
“Future City draws students into areas they may never before have considered and into subjects they never knew they could excel in,” says Carol Rieg, the program’s national director. “It does it in a way that builds confidence, stimulates creativity and leaves the students eager for the next challenge.”
Students also gain an appreciation for the intricacies of running a city. “I can’t look at a city the same again,” says Traci Sepp, from a team of home-schoolers in Peoria, Arizona who won the Phoenix regionals. “Now, I see infrastructure, zoning, density.” She adds that she also looks at urban economies differently, part of the lessons gained from SimCity 3000 – which forces participants to pay for their cities without any budget deficits. “Taxation is an interesting concept,” says Traci. “If you want roads and parks, you have to tax, but then the people turn around and go, ‘Taxes!’”
Traci’s teammate, Pearl Mahar, 12, says the hassles were well worth it, declaring, “After six months of eating, breathing and dreaming Future City, I’m going to Washington!”
Future City is sponsored in part by Engineers Week, February 20-26, a consortium of more than 100 engineering societies and major corporations, co-chaired in 2005 by ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and BP, p.l.c. This year’s essay sponsor is the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association, which asked students, "How can futuristic transportation systems efficiently use aggregate materials – crushed stone, sand, and gravel – as a basic construction product?"
As the mentor for Epiphany in Miami, Rodrigo “Rod” Rodriguez says he took his students to a rock quarry, a cement plant and a DOT materials laboratory to learn more about the essay theme, with spectacular results. “They came up with a lot of ideas people in the aggregate industry will be very, very surprised to see.”
Rodriguez says he, too, was pleasantly surprised by what he saw in his Future City team. “I see a bright future for us,” he says. “We’re going to be in good hands.”
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- First-place teams from 32 regions are competing in the National Finals: Albany (NY), Buffalo, Northern California, Southern California, Chicago, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Las Vegas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Milwaukee, Minnesota, New England, New Jersey, New York City, North Carolina, Northern Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Omaha, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Texas-Houston, Texas – North Texas, Washington, D.C., and Washington State.
- National Finals First Place team wins a trip to US Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, provided by Bentley Systems, Incorporated. 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. Winning teams (three students, teacher, and engineer mentor) from each qualifying regional Future City Competition receive an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the National Finals. Visit the Future City Competition at www.futurecity.org.
- 31 Special Awards at the Future City National Finals: Best Essay, Best Model, Most Innovative Design of Infrastructure Systems, Best Indoor Environment, Best Futuristic City, Best Communications System, Protecting Public Health and Safety through Competent and Ethical Engineering Practices, Most Innovative Power Generation System, Best Manufacturing Zone, Best Transportation System, Excellence In Systems Integration, Best Residential Zone, Best Futuristic Personal Transportation System, Best Use of Aerospace Technology, Best Use of Innovative Construction Materials and Techniques, Best Representation of Manufacturer Supply Chains, Best Land Surveying Practices, Best Use of Information Technology, The Most Innovative Uses of Aggregates (Crushed Stone, Sand & Gravel) in Designing Future Cities, Best Disaster Contingency Planning and Response, Best Integrated City, Most Healthy Community, Most Interesting Weight Saving Use for Plastics for cars driven in a future city, Most Interesting Form of Plastics used in the building of homes in a future city, Best Fire Protection Engineering, Most Innovative Design/Construction Approach to Achieving Environmental Sustainability, Best Use of Recycled Aluminum in a Future City, Excellence in Education for High-tech Manufacturing, Best Design for Improving the Quality of Life through improvement of water quality, water resources management, water protection or water and wastewater treatment, Best Integrated Use of Public Infrastructure, and Best Use of Fuel Cell Systems as a Sustainable Energy Source. The Special Awards will be presented the Future City Special Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, February 23, sponsored in part by Shell Oil Company.
- National Finals Judges include: Victoria Rockwell, 2005 Engineers Week co-chair, American Society of Mechanical Engineers; Meredith Short, representing 2005 Engineers Week co-chair, BP, p.l.c.; Capt. Glenn Flanagan, United States Navy; Joseph S. Toole, Federal Highway Administration; and Joy Wilson, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association.
- The National Engineers Week Future City Competition is sponsored in part by the Engineers Week Committee, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations. Engineers Week (www.eweek.org), founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, is dedicated to increasing public awareness and appreciation of the engineering profession and technology. Co-chairs for 2005 are ASME (The American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and BP, p.l.c. Heading the Future City Competition Leadership Council is Bentley Systems, Incorporated (www.bentley.com). The 2005 Essay sponsor is the National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association (www.nssga.org) .
- About the SimCityTM Franchise: Pursuing a lifelong fascination with simulations, legendary game designer Will Wright and his team at Maxis created the original SimCity in 1989. Critically acclaimed, it garnered dozens of awards and sold millions of copies both domestically and internationally. SimCity 2000TM followed in 1993. SimCity 3000TM, released in 1999, became the #1 selling PC game that year. SimCity 4 was released in January 2003 and continues to win awards and remain on top of the sales charts. SimCity 4 Deluxe Edition, which includes SimCity 4 and the latest SimCity 4 Rush Hour Expansion Pack, launched in September 2003 to rave reviews.
- About Electronic Arts: Electronic Arts Inc. (EA), headquartered in Redwood City, California, is the world's leading interactive entertainment software company. Founded in 1982, EA posted revenues of $2.96 billion for fiscal 2004. The company develops, publishes, and distributes interactive software worldwide for video game systems, personal computers and the Internet. In 2003, EA had 27 titles that sold more than one million copies. Electronic Arts markets its products under three brand names: EA SPORTS, EA GAMES, and EA SPORTS BIG. 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 SPORTS, EA GAMES, EA SPORTS BIG, Maxis, and The Sims 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.