Future City is a middle school program rooted in STEM education. Over 40,000 students are learning the basics of engineering and city planning in this annual competition as they design model and virtual (using the latest "SimCity" software) versions of a “Future City.”

Here in Northern California, 130 teams will compete in the Future City Competition Regional Finals, which will be held on Saturday, January 25th, 2014 at Cisco Systems, 150 W. Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA 95134. This year’s theme is "Tomorrow’s Transit: Design a Way to Move People In and Around Your City."

They're coming up with imaginative and viable solutions for public and private transportation needs, from vehicles to infrastructure. And they aren’t limited to their own towns; teams have gone around the world with their ideas.

As we've discussed on Science 2.0 many times, STEM learning isn't just beneficial for engineering or math; it makes people more likely to be creative and has proven to be an immeasurable force in improving skills like writing, public speaking and teamwork.

It's a good problem to solve. 

Throughout the world, a person’s ability to function and contribute to society is reliant on his or her capacity to mobilize, whether by air, foot, car, bike or public transit.

Around the country, these 40,000 middle school students from 1350 schools in 37 regions nationally have been tasked figuring out those much-needed solutions for DiscoverE’s 2013-14 Future City Competition.

Since returning to school in the fall, student teams have been hard at work on their Future City projects and preparing for regional finals in January 2014. First-place winners from each qualifying regional competition receive a trip to the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C., February 15-18, 2014 during Engineers Week. The national grand prize is $7,500 for the team’s school or after-school’s STEM program and a trip to U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. In Northern California, there are approximately 130 teams (with almost 200 original registrants) competing in the Future City Competition Regional Finals, which will be held on Saturday, January 25, 2014 at Cisco Systems (150 W. Tasman Drive, San Jose, CA 95134).

Led by an educator and engineer mentor, students learn the basics of city planning and management as they design a virtual city using SimCity software. Via the research essay, the students delve deeper into a citywide issue. This year’s question asks them to review the transportation options and needs of their own city, create viable ideas that consider safety, accessibility, intermodality and sustainability in an effort to reimagine a better and more efficient city. From there, each team builds a physical model of their city using recycled materials costing no more than $100.

DiscoverE’s annual Future City Competition, for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students, is held from September 2013 through February 2014. Future City is a major program of DiscoverE, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations, and culminates every year during Engineers Week.