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ESD Michigan Regional Future City Competition

January 26, 2015
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?

2015 Essay Topic:  Feeding Future Cities.

Many thousands of years ago, humans learned to domesticate animals and grow plants for food. Because we no longer needed to hunt and gather, we could stay in one place and start to build cities. It was the beginning of civilization. Today, agriculture is the largest global enterprise on earth. And while some regions still farm in ways similar to our ancient ancestors, for most of the world the mechanization of planting and harvesting, chemical fertilization and pest control, advanced irrigation, and other modern farming tools and techniques led to increased crop output—which, in turn, became a major contributing factor to rapid population growth. By 1900, the global population was roughly 1.7 billion people. In 2050 it is expected to exceed 9.5 billion. That’s more than 450% increase in the total number of people over the last 150 years. With billions more mouths to feed, there are increasing pressures on our global food supplies: less farmable land, more water pollution, growing water scarcity, increased fuel costs (making importing and exporting foods more expensive), pesticide resistance, and the growth of megacities, to name just a few. In order to feed the world in the future, we will have to come up with smart new ways to grow our food much closer to where we live.

Your challenge: Choose two foods (one vegetable and one protein) and design a way to grow enough of each within your future city borders to feed all of your citizens for at least one growing season. Taking into account your city’s size and location, you must consider the critical elements needed to grow food including light, climate, air quality, space, water, soil, and nutrients.

Along the way students apply math and science concepts to real-world problems, flex their problem-solving skills, develop good teamwork habits, explore engineering and its many career options, and become better citizens.
The Michigan Regional Future City Competition is part of a national program sponsored by the National Engineers Week Committee, and is coordinated by The Engineering Society of Detroit. National Engineers Week seeks to increase public awareness and appreciation of the engineering profession and technology by emphasizing the engineer’s positive contributions to society.

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?

The Future City Competition is made up of five components.  Teams are judged and scored on each of the components, which include:

  • Computer Design of Virtual City using SimCity Software
  • Research Essay
  • City Narrative
  • Physical Model of Future City
  • Team Oral Presentation

The computer design, essay, and narrative are all due before the Regional Competition.  The model and team presentation are judged at the Regional Competition where scores from all five components will be added together to determine the top team.  The 1st place team in each region will advance to the National Finals in Washington, DC, February 14-18, 2015. 

When is the Competition?

The Michigan Regional Future City Competition will take place January 26, 2015, 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 Designs:  Teams submit their city plan that they have designed using SimCity software in mid-November.  The SimCity designs will be judged in December and early January. A training session will be provided in late November.
  2. Essays and Narratives:  As part of the competition, students write a narrative (maximum 500 words) describing their future city’s key features and design attributes, as well as a 1,000 word essay.  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 26, 2015, 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 last year's winning team.


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