FORT WAYNE, Ind.—Indiana middle school students took on a formidable challenge this past fall. With scenes of disastrous urban flooding dominating the news in October, middle school students from 36 regions across the U.S. have been working to develop their own solutions to combat the devastating effect of unchecked water runoff. It’s all part of the 2012–13 National Engineers Week Future City® Competition, with the exceptionally timely theme of “Rethink Runoff: Design Clean Solutions to Manage Stormwater Pollution.”
The schools will present their ideas to a panel of experts as they compete in the Indiana Future City® Competition at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Saturday, January 19. Twenty-nine teams are expected at the Indiana competition. The winning team will advance to the National Future City finals in Washington, D.C., February 17 to 23, 2013, during National Engineers Week. The national grand prize is a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. More than 35,000 students from various middle schools are expected to participate nationwide. Nearly 1,000 students will participate in Indiana.
Each year Future City highlights a current issue and challenges students to formulate innovative solutions as they design a virtual 3D map and build a futuristic city model made from recycled materials. The public is invited to view and discuss these models with the teams between 9 and 11:30 a.m. in the Walb Student Union Ballroom. This year’s theme, “Rethink Runoff: Design Clean Solutions to Manage Stormwater Pollution,” includes a research essay describing their concept and writing a City Narrative outlining the key features of their city.
As each team addresses its stormwater runoff solutions, students will consider the safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance of their ideas. They will also learn about the engineering disciplines that encompass their solutions, including learning and identifying the steps of the design process.
The annual challenge has received national attention and acclaim for its role in encouraging middle school students nationwide to develop their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Through hands-on applications, Future City participants discover how engineering is both accessible and can make a difference in the world.
All teams are guided by a teacher and a volunteer mentor. According to Carol Dostal, IPFW College of Engineering, Technology, and Computer Science outreach director, “The teachers and mentors should all be applauded for their dedicated semester-long support of their teams. This project-based team effort sparks student interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines at a critical point in their education.”
At the Indiana finals, sponsor Indiana Michigan Power awards gifts cards and medals to finalists and participation gifts to each teacher and official team presenter. Fourteen organizations sponsor Special Awards, and each school receives a cash participation award for attending.