Designing housing that is affordable for city dwellers is challenging enough, even without considering green building standards.  However, the National Engineer’s Week Foundation is asking junior high school kids to design energy-efficient urban environments in this year’s Future City competition.  Now entering its 18th year, the Future City Competition invites seventh and eighth graders nationwide to create the cities of tomorrow, encouraging their interest in science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on applications.

This year’s challenge, entitled “Providing An Affordable Living Space For People Who Have Lost Their Home Due to a Disaster or Financial Emergency”, will require students to design an energy-efficient city using SimCity 4 Deluxe software and then build a model of their virtual city using recycled materials.  Each team is also required to write a research paper that describes the rationale behind their designs, as well as a second narrative that outlines the key features of their city. The registration deadline for this year’s regional and national competitions is October 31, 2009, but interested students can register early in order to obtain an information handbook over the summer.  This is a school-based competition, so interested students will need to obtain the support from their local school’s administration.  Registration costs are low ($25.00), so schools and students would mainly be responsible for the cost of the SimCity 4 Deluxe software (ranging from $14.99 – $43.99 on, though I assume an academic license might be available) and travel to the competition sites.
Also, former scientists and engineers can volunteer to mentor teams of students as they design their city.  This would be a great way for retirees to get involved in a local classroom near home and share all of their expertise!  Interested mentors can contact local schools directly to see if there is an interest in the Future City competition, or sign up here.

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