Designing affordable housing for those most in need is enormously complicated. But how to do it while adhering to LEED recognized green building standards, with an emphasis on energy efficiency and a low carbon footprint?

Sponsored by the nation’s professional engineering community, Future City, aims to stir interest in science, technology, engineering and math among young people. Students must conduct research for an essay on a pressing social need. This year’s theme, “Providing An Affordable Living Space For People Who Have Lost Their Home Due to a Disaster or Financial Emergency” centers on a design constructed with the ideal of providing affordable homes to those facing disaster or financial crisis, and earning only 50%-80% of the media income of the surrounding city. The living space needs to use sustainable materials, have a low-carbon emissions footprint, and achieve the “Green Ideals” of energy efficient building.

Since last fall, more than 33,000 students from 1,100 middle schools in 39 regions across the country have tackled this problem through their participation in the 18th Annual National Engineers Week Future City Competition. For the competition, students work in teams under the guidance of a teacher and a volunteer engineer mentor to design and build a city of tomorrow. They create cities on computers using the SimCity 4 Deluxe software and then build three-dimensional, tabletop models to scale. To ensure a level playing field, models must use recycled materials and can cost no more than $100 to build. Students also write brief city narratives describing their city and must present and defend their designs at the competition before a panel of engineer judges who test the depth of the teams’ knowledge.  In February, one winner was chosen at the event's national finals in Washington DC.  This year's winner was the team from North Carolina's Davidson IB Middle School. 


Middle schoolers create green future city
NC students win engineering competition by designing affordable housing that meets LEED building standards.