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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 63· No. 6 > Middle School Students Design Future Cities

May/June 2000
Vol. 63· No. 6

Middle School Students Design Future Cities

Some people don't give teenagers and preteens much credit for intelligence and creativity. But those folks have never seen the Future City Competition that is part of the activities of National Engineers Week. All of the entries in the national competition held in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 22 and 23, 2000, displayed amazing creativity and design.

National Engineers Week is a consortium of more than 100 engineering, scientific, educational societies and major corporations. Since its initiation in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, National Engineers Week has helped increase public awareness and appreciation of technology and the engineering profession.

STudents explain their model to the judges
Students explain their model to the judges

As part of this effort, engineers work with seventh- and eighth-grade students to imagine cities in the 21st century. Teams design the cities by computer and build scale models. An estimated 18,000 students participated nationwide.

In addition to awards for the best overall design, several companies and agencies sponsored special awards for specific parts or features of the design. In 2000, for the first time, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) sponsored a "Special Award" to the Future City team that best incorporated transportation elements in their prototype future city. Each of the five members of the winning team received a $100 savings bond and a framed certificate of recognition. In addition, the model built by the team was displayed in the Office of the Federal Highway Administrator.

FHWA sponsored the award to encourage middle school students to consider careers in engineering and transportation and to promote an appreciation for the important role of transportation in enhancing our quality of life and for the real problems that highway engineers solve in planning, building, and operating our transportation systems.

The team that received the Special Award for Transportation was from Santa Fe Junior High School in Santa Fe, Texas, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Houston. The team of Benjamin Bagley, Amir Befouri, and Dallas Hicks was guided by a faculty advisor, Brenda Doty, and an engineering advisor from the Texas Department of Transportation, Phaisarn Cwatanaphol. The name of their future city in California was Statesville (Dallas Harbour), described as Earth's ideal city with perfect weather. The design contained many transportation elements, including a major port; driverless taxis, which scan a ticket and transport a person to his destination; personal flying machines, which are mini-helicopters; vacuum tubes; people movers, which are moving sidewalks 25 feet (7.6 meters) above the ground; and track runners, which dispense cargo and people throughout the city.

There were many excellent models and selecting a winner was difficult. The transportation system of Valhallan was also one of the outstanding features of the future city designed by students from Nipher Middle School in Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. Valhallan was the overall winner of the eighth annual National Engineers Week Future City Competition. Established in 2050 on Mars, Valhallan, originally a multicultural colony for the purpose of researching Mars' mineral and water resources, quickly became a tourist mecca and technology hub. A pneumatic suction and subway system, called ValSub, moves citizens efficiently and silently through Valhallan.

The Nipher team included students Travis Hawk, Andrew Lusk, and Luke Obukowicz; teacher Mary Jo Brown; and engineer mentor William H. Gillespie, an aeronautical engineer at WHG Consulting Inc. The Nipher team receives a free trip to the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., donated by Bentley Systems.

Maxis, a software firm based in Walnut Creek, Calif., donated "SimCity 2000" software to all participating schools to enable them to design their future cities. The software incorporates factors related to politics, transportation, budgeting, energy needs, and other difficulties.

Visit the National Engineers Week Future City Competition on the World Wide Web at http://www.futurecity.org and National Engineers Week at http://www.eweek.org.

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