Middle Schoolers Take On Drinking Water Challenge

November/December 2019

NSPE Today
Middle Schoolers Take On Drinking Water Challenge

As more and more of the world’s population faces life with water in short supply, DiscoverE’s Future City Competition has presented its 2019–20 competitors with a timely challenge: Identify an urban water system threat and then imagine, research, design, and build a futuristic solution to ensure a reliable supply of clean drinking water.

The Future City Competition, now in its 28th year, is a project-based learning experience for middle schoolers.

Following the theme “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow,” 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from across the country and abroad will work in teams with educators and STEM mentors. The students will present their vision of the future through a virtual city design using SimCity software; a 1,500-word essay about their city; a scale model of their city (built with recycled materials); and in a short presentation to a panel of STEM professionals. Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, students are asked to address an authentic, real-world question: How can we make the world a better place?

According to current estimates, two billion people worldwide—25% of the world’s population—lack access to clean water. And that number is expected to double. By 2025, it is predicted that as many as four billion people will be living in water-stressed areas. In a recent survey commissioned on behalf of DiscoverE’s Global Day of the Engineer, engineers in the United States and abroad cited “access to clean water” as the top global challenge they will face over the next 25 years.

Access to clean water is also one of the National Academy of Engineering’s 14 Grand Challenges for the 21st century.

In the US, over 40,000 students, representing 1,500 schools and 39 regions, take part in the Future City Competition. Teams present their ideas at regional competitions in January. US regional winners then face off at the Future City Finals, where they are joined by international teams, including those from Canada and China. Taking place in Washington DC, February 15–19, 2020, during Engineers Week, the competition culminates with one team taking home the grand prize of a trip to US Space Camp and $7,500, provided by Finals sponsor Bentley Systems, for their school’s STEM program.