Over the years, cities and towns have managed their ever-expanding piles of trash in a variety of ways, including dumping it into landfills, burning it in incinerators, or shipping it away in trucks and barges. Such waste management systems contribute to air and water pollution and can be expensive and energy intensive. Today, engineers around the world focus on the four R’s of waste management (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) in an effort to deal with solid waste not as trash but as a resource.
With waste management critical to the very survival of global urban environments, the 2015-2016 Future City® Competition, a program of DiscoverE, has tasked middle schoolers to design new and innovative solutions to this vexing problem.
Since returning to school earlier this fall, student teams from Michigan have been hard at work on their Future City projects. As they prepare for their regional finals this January, set for January 25, 2016 at Suburban Collection Showplace they join more than 40,000 middle school students from 1,350 schools in 37 regions around the country, all of whom are engaged in similar competitions.
First-place winners from each qualifying regional competition receive a trip to the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 13-17, 2016, immediately prior to Engineers Week.
This year’s theme, Waste Not, Want Not, encourages students to design waste management systems for residential use and small businesses by looking at issues such as collection, separation, processing, recycling, health and safety, energy efficiency, environmental impact and cost. Students learn how today’s engineers and city planners deal with citywide sustainability issues like solid waste management. They research cutting edge technologies and imagine and design a plausible and futuristic solution that can exist for generations.
The Future City Competition is a national, project-based learning experience where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future. Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, students are asked to address an authentic, real-world question: How can we make the world a better place?
One of the nation’s leading engineering education programs and among the most popular, Future City has received national attention and acclaim for its role in encouraging middle schoolers nationwide to develop their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
In 2015, Future City was named the grand prize winner in the UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.) Innovative Education Award program, receiving a $100,000 award. The UL award highlights the essential, urgent and significant value of E-STEM education.
Barbara Guthrie, UL’s Vice President of Safety, said “We are tremendously pleased at how Future City has incorporated the strongest principles of the E-STEM approach to give young people the unprecedented opportunities to build their skills in science and systems thinking. They have demonstrated not only a passion for research and scientific investigation but also how this work ties in critically to addressing significant environmental concerns with approaches that encourage social responsibility and the active engagement of all members in a specific community.”
Working in a team with an educator and engineer mentor, students are challenged to design a virtual city using SimCity™ software. They research today’s waste management systems and write a city description about their solutions and city design. Students then bring their ideas to life by building a tabletop scale model of their city using recycled materials on a budget of $100 or less and give a brief presentation about their city.
Major funding for the National Finals comes from Bechtel Corporation, Bentley Systems, and Shell Oil Company.
To learn more, visit www.futurecity.org or our Facebook page.