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Auburn Engineering hosts Future City regional finals for middle school competitors

By Cassie Montgomery

Published: Jan 23, 2023 10:03:00 AM

Making the world a better place is an admirable goal and one that sixth, seventh and eighth-grade student teams from across Alabama and Tennessee aimed to achieve as they competed in the Future City regional finals held on the Auburn Engineering campus on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Brown-Kopel Center. The theme of this year’s competition was “The Climate Change Challenge” and the student teams were tasked with researching ways for their future cities to adapt and mitigate the effects of weather and environmental shifts. 

A team from Hampton Cove Middle School in Huntsville was awarded first prize trophies, a check for $300 and a trip to the Future City Competition international finals in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12-21, during Engineers Week for their design of their future city, “Ankurville.” Central School of Huntsville and Curry Ingram Academy of Brentwood, Tenn., were awarded second and third place, respectively. An additional 14 special awards sponsored by engineering professional societies, which included prizes of commemorative plaques and checks for $150, were awarded in categories such as “Most Innovative & Sustainable Use of Water Systems” and “Best Use of Sustainable Infrastructure.”

When it comes to providing an environment where future engineers can showcase their STEM skills, look no further than Auburn Engineering’s Office of K-12 Outreach, Recruiting and Scholarship. As Alabama Future City regional coordinator and Auburn Engineering’s K-12 outreach administrator, Sydney Riley had a front row seat for the planning and execution of the regional competition.

“I am always so impressed by the students’ ability to go into so much detail for a project,” Riley said. “I love this competition, because students are not only building a city not just to tackle the current challenge, but also making the lives of its citizens better. Engineers make our world a better place, and these students are already thinking of awesome ways to do that for us in the future.”

The Future City competition is a project-based learning experience where students imagine, research, design and build cities 100 years in 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?

Working on a team with an educator and STEM mentor, students are challenged to design a city 100 years into the future. They research today’s public spaces and write an essay 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.   

“Future City is a program that embodies a hands-on approach combined with the ability to present and answer questions in front of a large group,” said Brooke Chandler, Auburn Engineering’s Office of K-12 Outreach, Recruiting and Scholarship administrator for academic programs. “I’m excited to continue this program because the experience these students receive from building the model to presenting their idea to judges will positively impact their future and prepare them for a college experience”

The Office of K-12 Outreach, Recruiting and Scholarship has a mission to create a pipeline of Future Engineers. Being involved in, and serving as a host institution for, Future City is just one way the college can foster middle-schoolers’ passion for engineering.

“Being hosted in the Auburn University Brown-Kopel Center offers more engineering student engagement and hands-on tours of the Makerspace Laboratory,” said Sonya Dillard, co-coordinator for the Alabama Regional. “This event was founded in 1992 and is the 31st year anniversary for the National Future City Competition. The Alabama Regional boasts its 22nd year anniversary and is poised to grow much larger in the years to come. Since its inception, the Alabama Regional has reached over 5,000 students all across Alabama.”

Media Contact: Cassie Montgomery, cmontgomery@auburn.edu, 334.844.3668

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