Winning team Batavia Middle School was one of more than 25 schools from around Ohio to participate in the Future City competition.
As student leaders at Ohio University's Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, Engineering Ambassadors are used to being put on the spot by future students during college tours. This weekend, they turned the tables as judges for the regional middle-school “Future City” competition in Columbus, Ohio.
The annual competition tasks teams of of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to use SimCity software to solve a challenge in the realm of city planning and management. Led by an engineer and engineer mentor, each team of three students writes a research essay on the year’s theme, builds a physical 3-D model using no more than $100 of recycled materials and presents their project to a panel of judges
Scores on presentation, virtual city design, physical model, research essay and city narrative contribute to the award selection, which proved to be a lesson in imagination for the four student preliminary round judges from the Russ College, a competition sponsor.
“The kids had little limits and really ran with it,” said Rachel Fryan, a senior computer science major. “You got to see where the minds of future kids are headed. These kids will be in the same place as us in just four years, and in my opinion, they already have a leg up on other kids.”
For this year’s theme, “Tomorrow’s Transit: Design a Way to Move People in and Around Your City,” students were asked to look at their own home cities to create viable ideas that integrate safety, intermodality, sustainability and accessibility for disabled users. The winning team from each region receives a trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C.
The four ambassadors were joined by Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin, as well as Associate Dean for Academics Jeff Giesey, who said the competition gives kids at a pivotal age the experience of critically thinking about real-world challenges and defending their solutions.
“They were able to describe how they got experience working through the engineering design cycle of specifying the problem, gathering information, generating creative solutions, evaluating solutions, and selecting and documenting a final solution,” said Giesey, who served as a finals judge.
Ambassador Steven Crane judged the recreation portion, which evaluated the submissions for their offerings of fun activities for the hypothetical residents.
“It was great to interact with the young minds of tomorrow,” said the senior engineering technology and management student. “Many students had great ideas, and their imaginations were as impressive as the models they built,” Crane added.
The winning team, Batavia Middle School from Batavia, Ohio, will receive $7,500 as well as a trip for the team to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., from sponsor Bentley Systems. Second prize, awarded to Lakewood Middle School in Hebron, Ohio, will receive a $5,000 scholarship from the National Society of Professional Engineers Educational Foundation and third prize, a $2,000 scholarship from the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, went to Immaculate Conception Middle School in Cincinnati. All three will also receive engineering software for their schools – and they’ll connect with the Russ College again at the national competition in February, when Dean Irwin and Ambassadors will also participate.
Saturday’s competitors received Russ College drawstring backpacks filled with OHIO information and cool freebies, touching off conversations with the ambassadors about their degree programs and the engineering profession.
Crane said he could see how excited the young students were about the future and their potential to create for good.
“Everyone was excited about green energy, efficient cities, and so much more,” Crane said. “There was so much that went into each project, and I believe the kids learned teamwork and leadership skills throughout.”
More than 40,000 students from 1,350 middle schools are participating nationwide in the
37 regional competitions this month. The national competition in Washington, D.C., takes place during National Engineers Week, which is Feb. 16-22.