Jan. 16, 2004

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Contact: Jill Hummels, School of Engineering, (785) 864-2934.

Future City design competition to bring youths to KU Jan. 24

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas School of Engineering will be the venue for the first Future City Competition in the state of Kansas.

Twenty-one teams of seventh- and eighth-graders from around Kansas and the Kansas City area will descend on Eaton Hall Saturday, Jan. 24, for a competition that will test their engineering, math and science talents as they design and build model cities. KU is one of 34 regional competition sites around the country. The Kansas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and HNTB Corp. are the event sponsors.

"The Future City Competition introduces students to engineering and engineering-related fields when they are taking the first steps of their future career path," said C.W. Harper, Kansas's regional coordinator. "The competition also promotes creative thinking, organization and teamwork skills that will benefit them in any future they choose."

Robb Sorem, associate dean for undergraduate studies in the KU School of Engineering, agreed the event is a terrific opportunity for middle school students.

"The Future City Competition is a great way to let students delve into engineering and experience firsthand the creativity that goes into engineering," Sorem said. "They get to see at a young age just how rewarding it can be. We are pleased that KU is a part of the first Future City Competition in Kansas."

The model city the teams develop must display residential, commercial and industrial areas, power plants, roads and power distribution networks. The city must be designed to be energy efficient, supplying enough energy for its residents. Other considerations are pollution levels, traffic density and cost efficiency.

Students attack the competition in a series of phases over several months. The first phase requires each team to use SimCity 3000 software to design a computer model of their city. Next, team members build a physical model of their city using recycled materials. The models can be no larger than 30 inches wide, 60 inches long and 24 inches high.

The writing and collaboration skills of each team are put to the test in the third phase, in which students write an essay of 300 to 500 words. In addition, they must pen a 100- to 200-word abstract describing their city and some of its services.

The final phase of the competition takes place Jan. 24, when the teams must present their physical models and deliver five- to seven-minute oral presentations to a panel of judges.

The public is invited to view the models prepared by all the teams as well as view the final presentations of the top five teams.

"These projects are amazingly creative and well crafted," said Harper, a designer in the Kansas Department of Transportation Road Office. "People of all ages can appreciate the work and possibly use it to inspire any younger students they know."

The competition begins at 12:30 p.m. The final round of judging (top five teams) begins at 4 p.m. in the Spahr Engineering Classroom of Eaton Hall, 15th Street and Naismith Drive. Presentation of awards and the announcement of the regional winning team will be from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Members of the winning team will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., to participate in the national finals, Feb. 22 to 28. The top team at the national competition will win a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.

For more information about this year's event or to find out about participating in next year's competition, contact C.W. Harper at (785) 393-9139 or harper@ksdot.org. Information about the national competition also is available at www.futurecity.org.

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