Future City kicks off 2015-16 competition: Middle school students invited to design solid waste management systems

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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 off 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 are focused 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 new solutions to waste management critical to the very survival of urban environments globally, the 2015-2016 Future City Competition, a program of DiscoverE, is now underway. 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?

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Wheeling Village Manager Jon Sfondilis serving as one of the preliminary round judges in last year’s Future City Competition

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 Chicago regional finals are scheduled on the Campus  of University of Illinois (Chicago) on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  There are 36 other regional competitions, and the finalists represent their regions at national finals in Washington, DC in February.

Working in a team with an educator and engineer mentor, students present their waste management solutions and vision of their future city in a virtual city design (using SimCity software); a 1,500 word city description; a scale model of their city (built with recycled materials); and in a short presentation to a panel of STEM professionals.

Future City was recently honored as the grand prize winner of a $100,000 award in the UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.) Innovative Education Award program (ULIEA). Developed in collaboration with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), the UL Innovative Education Award is open to nonprofits that motivate K-12 schools about science research through E-STEM programming and education about the environment.

Major funding for the National Finals comes from Bechtel Corporation, Bentley Systems, and Shell Oil Company.

More than 40,000 students, representing 1,350 schools, take part in the Future City Competition. The deadline to register is Oct. 31.

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