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Future City Competition to Bring Youths to KU

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

 Future City logo

The University of Kansas School of Engineering will be the venue for the Third Great Plains Region Future City Competition on Sat., Jan. 28.

More than 50 teams of seventh- and eighth-graders from around Kansas and the Kansas City metropolitan area will descend Saturday on the Kansas Memorial Union for a competition that tests their engineering, math and science talents as they design and build model cities. KU is one of 33 regional competition sites around the country. The Kansas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers, Parsons Brinckerhoff, George Butler Associates and HNTB Corporation are the event sponsors.

"The Future City Competition introduces students to engineering and engineering-related fields when they are taking the first steps of their future career path," said Kansas’s regional coordinator C.W. Harper. "The competition also promotes creative thinking, organization, and teamwork skills that will benefit them in any future they choose." Nationwide, more than 30,000 students and 1,000 schools take part in the competition, which is sponsored by Engineers Week, a consortium of more than 100 engineering societies and corporations.

Robb Sorem, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the KU School of Engineering, agreed the event is a terrific opportunity for middle school students.

"The Future City Competition is a great way to let students delve into engineering and experience firsthand the creativity that goes into engineering. They get to see — at a young age — just how rewarding it can be," Sorem said.

This year's competition asks the students to develop a plan to revive an abandoned strip mall. Rehabilitation of such sites are often more complicated than at first glance. The projects involve several engineering considerations such as water and sewer utilities, transportation access and soil analysis.

Students attack the competition in a series of phases over several months. The first phase requires each team to use SimCity 3000 software to design a computer model of their project. Next, team members build a physical model of their reclaimed strip mall using recycled materials. The models can be no larger than 30 inches wide, 60 inches long and 24 inches high.

The writing and collaboration skills of each team are put to the test in the third phase, wherein students write an essay of 300 to 500 words. In addition, they must pen a 100- to 200-word abstract describing their project and some of its attributes.

The final phase of the competition takes place on Saturday where the teams must present their physical models and deliver five- to seven-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges.

The public is invited to view the models prepared by all the teams as well as view the final presentations of the top five teams.

"These projects are amazingly creative and well crafted. People of all ages can appreciate the work and possibly use it to inspire any younger students they know," said Harper, a design engineer in the Kansas Department of Transportation Road Office.

The competition begins at 9 a.m. Models will be on display in the Union Ballroom. The final round of judging (top 5 teams) begins around 2 p.m. Woodruff Auditorium will be open for seating at 1:30 p.m. Presentation of awards and the announcement of the regional winning team will begin immediately after the final round of presentations. Members of the winning team receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the national finals, February 20 to 22. The top team at the national competition wins a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

For more information about this year’s event or to find out about participating in next year’s competition, contact

C.W. Harper

or call 785-393-9139. Information about the national competition is also available at


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