Future city competition receives high marks from students and teachers


First study shows positive results

WASHINGTON (7 September 2004) -- The National Engineers Week Future City Competition, in which seventh- and eighth-grade students develop models and descriptions of how people might one day live, is viewed as an enjoyable learning experience by both students and teachers, according to a study commissioned by IEEE-USA. And more than half of the students said they planned to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics in high school and college. The survey of 190 students and teachers from the 1,100 participating schools was performed by The Response Center of Fort Washington, Pa.

Overall, 82 percent of students and all teachers gave the contest an "A" or "B" on a five-point scale. Both groups gave high marks to steps such as designing the city and building a physical model, as well as going to competitions. Students also felt that participation helped them think creatively and improved their communication skills.

"We commissioned this study to assist the Future City Competition in its development efforts," said Joseph V. Lillie, an IEEE member who served as 2004 National Engineers Week Chair. "The research will be very useful as we move forward with improvements to the competition and expand into new areas of the country."

Now in its 13th year, the Future City Competition (www.futurecity.org) was introduced by IEEE-USA with the EWeek committee in 1992-93. It reaches more than 30,000 students in 37 regions of the United States, and is run annually in conjunction with Engineers Week each February.

The four-part, multi-disciplinary competition asks students to create a future city by employing critical thinking, teamwork, research and problem-solving skills. Their solution is a city designed using SimCity software, a table-top scale city model using recycled materials, a 700-word essay on a specific engineering topic, and a seven-minute team verbal presentation defending their vision before a panel of judges.

The survey further revealed that more than two-thirds of seventh graders and 20 of the 22 teachers plan to participate next year, while 80 percent of the students would recommend the program to friends. Even though the participants enjoy competing in the annual contest, most only participate one of the two years they're eligible. Though teachers enjoy the contest, most are only involved a year or two.

Although students enjoy the project, few appreciated the paperwork. Writing the essay describing their city got an "A" or "B" from little more than half the students.

According to Lillie, a member of the Future City Advisory Board, "this study gives the competition's leadership documented evidence of the Future City Competition's value."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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