ESD College of Fellows

Link Engineering

Walbridge Aldinger

ESD Michigan Regional Future City Competition

January 25, 2016
Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, MI


What is Future City?

Future City is a cross-curricular educational program where students in 6th, 7th and 8th grades imagine, design, and build cities of the future.  Over four months, students work as a team with an educator and volunteer mentor to design a virtual city using SimCity software; research and write an essay addressing this year’s theme; build a model of their city using recycled materials; write a brief narrative promoting their city; and present their city before a panel of judges at a Regional Competition in January. Regional winners go on to represent their region at the national competition in Washington, DC, in February.

What Is This Year’s Theme?

2016 Essay Topic:  Waste Not Want Not

Humans create a lot of trash. Each of the nearly 320 million citizens of the United States, for example, generates an average of 4.3 pounds of trash per person, per day. That makes solid waste management (the collection and processing of trash) one of the most important health, safety, and environmental services a city provides for its residents.

Over the years, cities and towns have managed their trash in a variety of ways, including dumping it into landfills, burning it in incinerators, or shipping it off to other states or countries in trucks and barges.

If improperly designed or managed, such waste management systems have the potential to contribute to air and water pollution and can be expensive and energy intensive. Today, engineers around the world are focused on the four R's of waste management (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot) in an effort to design new ways to deal with solid waste that treat it not as trash destined for landfills or incinerators but as a resource.

2016 Challenge:

Design an innovative citywide solid waste management system for your future city that is safe, environmentally sound, and energy efficient.

Who can participate?

The Michigan Regional Future City Competition is open to Michigan students in grades 6th, 7th, and 8th who are from the same school, a home school environment (a Home School Affidavit form will need to be completed), or are members of a nationally, regionally, or state recognized youth-focused organization, such as the Boy or Girl Scouts; Boys and Girls Clubs; 4-H, etc.  The competition is team-based and each team consists of at least three students, an educator and a volunteer mentor. A team can include an entire class or as few as three students.

How Does the Competition Work?

Future City restructured its framework to incorporate project management principles and the engineering design process. Teams will work through the stages of the engineering design process and apply specific project management methods to help them complete each of the required competition deliverables.  There are still 5 program deliverables however the point structure has changed:

  1. *Updated! Virtual City: Students design a virtual city using SimCity software and present their city’s progress via a slideshow presentation. Note that teams will not be uploading their actual game file, but rather a PDF slideshow. (54 points)
  2. *Updated! City Description: Students describe the unique attributes of their city and provide their solution to this year’s Waste Not, Want Not challenge. This 1,500 word essay combines the former Research Essay and City Narrative deliverables. (60 points)
  3. City Model: Students build a physical model of their future city (to scale) using recycled materials. (Note: No change from past years.) (70 points)
  4. City Presentation: Students give a 7-minute presentation about their city followed by a short Q&A session. (Note: no change from past years.) (70 points)
  5. *New! Project Plan: Students complete a project plan to help them plan and organize their project. (10 points)

When is the Competition?

The Michigan Regional Future City Competition will take place January 25, 2016, at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Mich. In February, the winning team from each region competes at the national finals in Washington, DC. Michigan's first-place team will receive an all expense-paid trip for the teacher, mentor and three presenting students to Washington, DC, to compete in the finals.

What Role Does the Volunteer Mentor Play?

The mentor is an integral part of the Future City team.  Serving as the team advisor and advocate for all phases of the program, the mentor provides valuable input and technical assistance.  The mentor makes connections to real life engineering experiences, serves as a coach, and helps students translate the academic to the real world of engineering.  People who work in the engineering community are preferred to serve as mentors. This includes engineers, technical professionals, architects, and city or urban planners, to serve as mentors. 

For more information or to volunteer to serve as a mentor, contact Allison Marrsat or 248-353-0735, ext. 121.

Why are Judges Needed and What Do They Do?

The role of the judge is to draw on their expertise and resources to fairly judge the teams’ efforts.  Judges will be needed to evaluate the following competition projects: 

  1. SimCity Slideshow:  Students design a virtual city using SimCity software and present their city’s progress via a slideshow presentation. A training session will be provided in late November.
  2. City Description: Students describe the unique attributes of their city and provide their solution to this year’s Waste Not, Want Not challenge. This 1,500 word essay combines the former Research Essay and City Narrative deliverables. The essay and narrative will be judged in mid-December.  No advance training is required, but detailed instructions will be provided.
  3. Models and Team Presentations:  This judging involves attending the ESD Michigan Regional Future City Competition on January 25, 2016, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.  The training for this phase of judging takes place at 7:30 am the morning of the competition.  The actual judging is from 9 – 11 am.  At that time, the schools display their model cities and three presenting students from each team give a five-to-seven minute presentation to a panel of judges.

To volunteer as a judge, please visit Or contact Leslie Smith for more information at 248-353-0735, ext. 152.

How Do Teams Register and Is There a Cost?

Educators can register a team at or click here:  There is a $25 registration fee, per organization or school. This fee covers all of an organization or school’s teams, anywhere from one to twenty. Additional costs include the $100 budget for model and presentation supplies.  Teams may also incur some travel costs going to the Regional Competition.

Does Future City Align With National Standards?

Future City aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards, Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the International Society for Technology in Education’s National Education and Technology Standards.  You can view all of the standards here:

Where Can I Find Additional Resources About The Competition?

Additional resources including a program handbook, helpful webinars, and additional resources to research the essay topic, can be found

See an interview with 2014's winning team (local and national first place).


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