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February 14th, 2008
Future City Competition Reveals Youthful Optimism

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PR – To anyone worried about what tomorrow
may bring, seventh- and eighth-graders across America have an answer: 
It will take a lot of work, but things are going to be fine.

For students heading to the 16th annual Future City National Finals, February 18-20 at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.,
looking to the years ahead has been a steady pastime during the past
several months as they’ve perfected their designs for cities of
tomorrow.  Despite the fact that they must consider harsh realities
such as aging infrastructure, climate change, and economic difficulties
as they gaze into the future, their overall outlook is one of promise
and hope.

“Life will be a lot easier,” predicts
Gabrielle Rocco, a member of the winning team from Islip Middle School
in Islip, New York, which will represent the New York City competition,
one of a record-breaking 37 participating regions at the National
Finals.  “Engineers will invent robots to help us.  There will be less
pollution, more alternative fuels, the air won’t be as polluted and
there won’t be so much global warming.”

It’s much more than wishful thinking.  The competition, students say, has taught them that a better future is up to them.

“With Future City you can look at
things from a different point of view,” says Jeremy Boyd, a
seventh-grader on the team from Heritage Middle School in Westerville,
Ohio, his state’s regional winner.  “In my opinion, it’s a way to live
a better life.”

Future City, now in its 16th
year, asks middle school students to develop futuristic urban designs,
first on computer and then in large tabletop models.  Working in teams
with a teacher and volunteer engineer mentor, students create their
cities using the SimCity 3000TM videogame
donated to all participating schools by Electronic Arts, Inc. of
Redwood City, California.  From that design, they build large table-top
models using recycled materials with a budget of less than $100.  They
write a city abstract and an essay on using engineering to solve an
important social need – this year’s theme asks students to describe how
nanotechnology will monitor their city’s structures and systems to keep
its infrastructure healthy.  At regional competitions in January and at
the National Finals, they present, defend, and answer questions about
their cities before a panel of engineer judges.

For one of the winning regional teams –
Westridge Middle School in Shawnee Mission, Kansas – working for a
better future is particularly realistic.  Their model is based on
rebuilding Greensburg, the small Kansas town virtually wiped from the
map by a tornado last year.  For team member Amy Marie Hocker, 14, the
effort is more than just rebuilding a physical city.  “We want to open
people’s eyes that there is hope after a natural disaster.”

Regional competition winning teams
receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington for the Future City
National Finals, hosted by Bentley Systems, Incorporated, a leading
provider of infrastructure design and engineering software. 

“Part of our responsibility as industry
leaders lies in developing the talented and diverse workforce who will
be designing the world’s infrastructure in the future,” says Bentley
Systems CEO Greg Bentley.  “We’ve joined with many others who support
the National Engineers Week Future City Competition because of its
unique ability for inspiring students to consider career choices that
might otherwise have overlooked engineering.  The combination of
engineer mentors, hands-on learning, and teamwork engages students and
opens the door to endless possibilities for them and the engineering
profession.” 

At the National Finals, students will
vie for the grand prize of a week at US Space Camp in Huntsville,
Alabama.  Some 30,000 students from more than 1,111 schools – a record
number of registered schools – participated in 2007-08.  Future City is
sponsored in part by the National Engineers Week Foundation, a formal
coalition of more than 75 engineering, professional, and technical
societies and some 50 corporations and government agencies.  Engineers
Week 2008, February 17-23, is co-chaired by IBM and the Chinese
Institute of Engineers-USA.

John Hofmeister, president of Shell Oil
Company, which provides funding to nine regional competitions in
addition to the National Finals, says the forward thinking the
competition generates benefits the entire profession.  “Shell is
pleased to support Future City because it encourages achievement in
technology and engineering at an early age," said Hofmeister.  “Future
City provides Shell an opportunity to identify promising young
students.  As Shell continues to seek talent in the areas of math and
science, we will continue to look to proven programs such as Future
City to help us connect with students with those necessary skills.”

A glance at some of the essays on
nanotechnology – this year’s essay is sponsored by The Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) – offers a peek into an
astounding grasp of a discipline most adults barely even know. 

Heritage Middle School’s essay, for
example, succinctly delves into using nanotechnology to monitor its
city’s wastewater.  “To maximize efficiency,” the students write,
“microelectro-mechanical machines oversee nanosensors implanted within
pipes…nanosensors, robotic nanopigs, nanosponges, carbon nanotubes,
nanodigibots, nanosensor stress bots, and smart table technology have
been used throughout the system.”

Embracing such advanced engineering
concepts underscores the rigors of the program as well as the tenacity
of the students, says Future City National Director Carol Rieg.  “No
matter what we give these young people, they consistently rise to the
challenge,” she says.  “Future City sparks imaginations to see
engineering as a critical component of their world and a viable pathway
for their own futures.”

For Melissa Doan, 13, from St. Philip
Neri, the school that will represent Oklahoma at National Finals,
working on Future City was a glimpse into a not-too-distant horizon. 
“We’re researching and writing about a technology that one day will
actually be part of our lives.”

“I see lots of future engineers here,”
says Dane Horna, P.E., the mentor for Davidson International
Baccalaureate Middle School in Davidson, North Carolina, winners of the
North Carolina regional competition.  Horna, senior consultant and vice
president of S&ME, Inc., an engineering and environmental
consulting firm based in Charlotte, explains that he saw how the
competition evokes the very essence of engineering in young people.

“We can challenge kids to meet or
exceed expectations, to do more and want to learn more,” he says. 
“Future City teaches everyone that we can work out problems, and that
we need to work out problems.”  The results, Horna adds, were
astounding.  “Can you believe 13-year-old kids are developing these
ideas?”     

And it’s not just the students who are
feeling optimistic.  Mary Kay Peters, the teacher on the winning team
from St. Alphonsus School in Greendale, Wisconsin, that state’s
regional winner, notes that she’s impressed with the outlook of this
new generation.  “Our future,” she says, “is in very good hands.”

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