Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Future City Competition for Middle School Students

BETF wants to advance the careers of African Americans from the classroom to the boardroom. Ideally, we acheive this mission through the programs and services of BDPA at local and national levels. However, we want to encourage any programs that move our mission forward. As such, I am proud to introduce many BETF-Blog readers to an existing program that educates and motivates young teenagers that are still in middle school ... Future City Competition.

The folks behind this program believe that the typical American seventh or eighth-grader can think beyond sports, texting or hip hop to a different level -- a level that involves creating a vision of the future.

How cool would it be for BDPA students to participate in the National Engineers Week Future City Competition, which each year invites young people to create a city of tomorrow. What began in 1992 as a modest project to encourage math and science skills and lay the foundation for a career in engineering has become the nation’s largest engineering education program, this year expected to reach 30,000 students in 1,100 schools.

Forty region competitions funnel students towards an all-expense-paid trip to the Future City National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 15-17, 2010 during National Engineers Week. Grand prize is a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL.

The competition asks students, working in teams and under the guidance of a teacher and a volunteer engineering (or IT professional) mentor from the community, to design a city of the future and include a plan that helps meet a particular social need.

Students build their cities first on computer using SimCity 4 Deluxe and then in large three-dimensional scale models. They must also write an abstract describing their city, and an essay on a topical engineering issue. Finally, five of the best teams have to present and defend their design before a panel of prominent engineer judges all the while parents, teachers, guests listen.

Future City purposely directs participants to incorporate real engineering challenges into their plans and this year is no different. With thousands of roads, bridges, and railways in need of repair and increased traffic straining budgets, the effective use of basic transportation construction materials will become a pressing topic.

Students can create any kind of city or transportation system, but as they devise monorails, people movers, bike paths, or freeways, they will be giving extra scrutiny to urban expansion, environmental issues, and sustainability with achievable, measurable results. A special focus of the 2010 competition will be to create green living spaces to house the neediest. Designing affordable housing for those most in need is enormously complicated. But how will these students propose to accomplish this task with an emphasis on energy efficiency and a low carbon footprint?

The hands-on lessons in practical math and science can prove critical in maintaining studies through high school, giving students the skills they need to pursue science, technology, engineering or mathematics in college. Aren't these lessons that would be useful for our BDPA student members?


Unknown said...

I believe that BDPA must also begin to turn its eyes and programs toward more focused and real world issues. It is nice to have the national contest for the kids, but we should be training them not for contests but for the real world and helping them carve out a place in it.

BDPA still feels more like a social organization, not a technical one.

Unknown said...

Thaddeus - Good point. BDPA is many things to people. I always try to be mission-centric when I think of BDPA. I see it as a professional organization that seeks to advance the careers of African Americans from the classroom to the boardroom.

That being said ... if you were a BDPA chapter president what program would you create or augment?