Monday, January 27, 2014

Cities of the Future as Imagined by Students of Today

A top-5 team presents at the Future City Competition 2014.
Students, mentors and parents pack into Tate Auditorium.
LMC staff judged the Building Quality Communities award.
Kids these days ... getting into engineering, transportation systems, city services ... wait, what?

As judges of the Future City Competition at the University of Minnesota campus saw for themselves on Jan. 18, that's exactly what hundreds of 6th- through 8th-grade students have been up to.

League of Minnesota Cities staff members were invited to judge and present the League-sponsored Building Quality Communities special award that day, and in the process got the chance to witness these talented students in action.

Twenty-one other organizations also sponsored, judged and presented special awards.

To prepare for this day, more than 50 teams of students from around the state, Grand Marais to Rochester, spent months developing model cities, incorporating services like transportation, zoning, recreation, power sources, and all the other details that go into making a thriving community. To advance in the competition, all teams wrote essays and built dioramas representing their fictional city of the future or a segment of it.

Next, they developed presentations to share their city's design and the logistics behind it, before putting it all on the line for a panel of judges.

That's where the similarities in approach stopped, and team creativity seized the day.

Students presented cities of all sizes, located in places as diverse as the desert, the moon, and even future-era Paris.

Among all the creative, practical, and adventurous designs, League judges sought examples of city services providing excellent quality of life.

We found them. Student teams demonstrated they knew the importance of safety, transportation, recreation, and economic development in creating livable, attractive communities.

Teams also demonstrated a keen grasp of the importance of clean water and air to residents—no surprise in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

When judging was complete, the Building Quality Communities award was given to "Wild City," a project of Woodbury Middle School. The builders of Wild City envisioned city services that were truly integrated into the geography of their community, and presented accessible city services along with a responsive city hall. 

While not every student who participated in Future City will ultimately grow up to be involved in engineering or local government, the League was pleased to be a part of such a far-reaching program that educates the community leaders of the future. Competitors developed a better understanding of what makes cities tick, and are better prepared to be the city problem-solvers of the cities of the future.

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