Magazine article ASEE Prism

Back to the Future

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Back to the Future

Article excerpt

Today's middle school students are tomorrow's engineers. At least that's the idea behind the National Engineers Week Future City Competition, which drew around 30,000 seventh and eighth graders from across the country during preliminary contests this fall.

Competitors work in teams of three under the guidance of a teacher and an engineer to create their vision of the city of tomorrow, first on the computer and then as a 3D scale model. Ideas from the past have ranged from solar powered monorails to communication chip implants under every citizen's fingernails at birth.

This year's specific task is for teams to utilize an energy source that is cheap, efficient, and environmentally safe.

Students spent the fall semester planning, designing, and building their models. Twenty-seven teams were selected in the January regional competitions to travel to Washington, D.C., February 19 for the national finals. The winning team receives a trip to space camp, while runners-up are awarded cash grants to improve their schools' technology programs.

Carol Rieg, national director for the competition, said that it provides students from different backgrounds the opportunity to learn about the practical applications of their math, science, and technological skills. "Students learn long after the competition is over," she said.

In its tenth year, the contest strives to introduce a new generation of young people to engineering, which might lead them down a career path they otherwise might not consider.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is working to create a "living laboratory" for gender equity in the areas of engineering and science. …

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