Future City Competition Lets Middle School Kids Tackle STEM Challenges

Jan 31, 2020

PARIC recently sponsored the 2020 Missouri Future City competition. This annual event promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. The premise of the competition is middle school students working in teams to design a city, focused on solving a pressing issue. This year, the title of the challenge was “Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow.” Nineteen teams totaling 95 students participated in the state-level competition this year.

One of the goals of this experience is to get students interested in STEM at an early age. The competition does this by showing the problems they can solve in these careers.

AEC companies matched each team with an educator and a mentor as they learned how to conceptualize, iterate and troubleshoot their proposed solutions. The students then put their ideas in Sim City, an open-ended city-building computer game, to test the impact of their decisions in the long-term. This gave them the chance to consider the economic impact of their strategies. A budget for $100 covered materials to build a model. Students also wrote an essay and presented about their cities to a panel of judges.


In addition to judging the overall competition, Senior Project Engineer Richard Kinsey gave out the PARIC award to the team with the highest score on their Virtual City submission. The O.C.E.A.N. Team from Chester Boren Middle School in Centralia, MO claimed this prize. They worked with educator Ann Sider and a mentor from Environmental Dynamics International, Randy Chann. Kinsey saw similarities between this entry and solutions being used in the field.

Kinsey believes events like this can shine a light on the viability of careers in construction, ultimately leading to a more robust future workforce. He says, “The Future City Competition is a great way for kids to practice critical thinking and innovation. This process is more specific to STEM and construction than their typical curriculum, and the team dynamics and challenges are stimulating, like jobs in engineering and construction.”


The team that took home first place was La Tierra Prometida, from St. Clair Junior High in Saint Clair, MO. Kinsey says they showed ingenuity and resourcefulness to meet the requirements of using recycled materials to show their building. One of the students saved the packaging of his father’s diabetes supplies, as well as spare computer parts. The model included a functioning hyperloop, powered by a battery, magnet and a copper coil. In addition to the physical parts of the model, the team specified different types of zoning in their city.

The team from St. Clair will have the opportunity to compete at the national level in Washington, D.C. on February 16 to 20, 2020.