WASHINGTON, D.C. — Solutions to the challenges of waste management are critical to the very survival of urban environments around the world.
But don’t worry. The Future City competition will have tens of thousands of middle school students working on the problem, including the two-time defending national champions from St. John Lutheran School in Rochester.
Future City 2015-16 is now under way, with the theme “Waste Not, Want Not.” Future City, a program of the engineering promotion group DiscoverE, is a national project-based learning experience in which students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades imagine, research, design and build cities set 150 years in the future.
Each year, the competition’s theme changes to keep the challenge fresh. This year’s theme asks students to design waste management systems of the future, as part of Future City’s goal to get students thinking about how to make the world a better place.
Over the centuries of human history, civilization has dealt with its ever-expanding piles of trash in a variety of ways — burying it in landfills, burning it in incinerators, and more recently, recycling and reusing through techniques like composting. Today’s engineers are focused on the four R’s of waste management — reduce, reuse, recycle and rot — and are increasingly viewing solid waste not as trash but as a resource.
This year’s theme encourages students to design waste management systems for residential and business use by looking at issues such as collection, separation, processing, recycling, health and safety, energy efficiency, environmental impact and cost.
In Future City, students will learn how today’s engineers and city planners deal with citywide sustainability issues like solid waste management. They’ll research cutting edge technologies and imagine and design a plausible and futuristic solution that can exist for generations.
Working in a team with an educator and engineer mentor, Future City students present their vision of their future city in a virtual city design, using SimCity software. They also write a 1,500-word city description, and build a scale model of their city using recycled materials. Finally — and often, very entertainingly — they develop a presentation about their city that they perform before a judging panel of volunteer STEM professionals.
Teams from 37 regions present their ideas at regional competitions, held each year in January. Winners of these regionals make presentations at the National Finals in Washington, DC in February, held in conjunction with National Engineers Week.
St. John School has won the Michigan regional, managed by The Engineering Society of Detroit, the past five years in a row, and the national finals the past two years straight.
More than 40,000 students, representing 1,350 schools, take part in the Future City Competition. The deadline to register is Oct. 3. Register today or learn more at www.futurecity.org. More about DiscoverE, a coalition of more than 100 professional societies, corporations and government agencies, at www.discovere.org. DiscoverE introduces students, parents, and educators to engineering, and engages them in hands-on engineering experiences to make science and math relevant.
Major funding for the National Finals comes from Bechtel Corp., Bentley Systems, and Shell Oil Co.