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For Engineers

Join us and team up with students as they learn how to apply math, science, and technology to real-world engineering problems. Along the way they’ll discover engineering, uncover hidden talents, gain confidence, and flex their problem solving skills.
The students are so excited about the competition. My goal in life is to have every child say that he or she wants to be an engineer.” - Alexis Billingslea, Chicago Engineer Mentor

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For Engineers

Testimonial Author: 
- Alexis Billingslea, Chicago Engineer Mentor
Why should I volunteer?

America needs more engineers and technical professionals to fuel our innovation economy. Future City is a wonderful way to introduce 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to engineering and expose them to a rewarding career possibility. Post-program surveys show that a majority of students become more interested in math, science and engineering after completing Future City.

What is the time commitment for a mentor?

Ideally, you will be able to work with the kids and provide advice and technical assistance throughout the project. This may happen in person, via email, or even over Skype. The most important step is talking to your educator partner about what works best for the team at the beginning of the project. Typically, most engineers devote approximately 12-14 hours from September to January.

What does the mentor do?

As a mentor you provide advice, guidance, and technical assistance as your students work on the various project components. You’ll start by becoming familiar with program components and the essay topic. In the early weeks, you’ll meet with the team to get to know your students and focus them on the big picture: good urban design, an overview of the essay topic, and brainstorming possible solutions. Later, you’ll help with the model, teaching the students about scale, and working on the presentation. Making yourself available by email to review things like the essay and ideas of futuristic components is helpful too. Just remember you are the advisor and the students do the actual work.

How can I help?

There are many ways to participate in Future City—be a team mentor, program judge, day of volunteer, serve on the organizing committee, or make a donation. Visit the Get Involved section for more information or talk to your Regional Coordinator about what role best serves your time availability and talents.

How do I work with the educator?

The educator is the leader and you are the advisor. Start by discussing the educator's needs for each project component (virtual city design, physical model, essay and team presentation) and how you can best contribute. Establish a schedule. Educators differ on how they schedule the project. Some offer Future City as part of a class, some split the work between class and after school, and others do the program as part of an after school club or program.

How many students will I be mentoring?

It depends. In some cases you may be working with a whole class (or classes) that work as a team on one design. Or, with a number of smaller groups working on multiple designs. Some educators work with smaller groups, like the science club, in an after-school environment. Or you might be paired with a three student member team.

Can I mentor more than one team? And, can a team have more than one mentor?

Yes to both questions. If you and the educator agree, you can work with more than one team. And, if you have a colleague that you’d like to partner with that is great too. Just talk to your educator first and decide who will be registered as the official team mentor during the competition.

Does the mentor need to be an engineer or licensed?

The mentor should have a technical background sufficient to understand the project and be able to coach the team. While an engineering background is preferable, it is not mandatory. Licensure is not required.

Are you looking for a specific engineering discipline?

No. Future City asks students do the things that all engineers do—identify problems; brainstorm ideas; design solutions; test, retest and build; and share their results. And while a city is a complex structure with aspects that are beyond any one engineer's realm of expertise, all engineers have the background and the skills to go out and find the solutions. This is exactly what we are trying to model for the students.

The essay question is not in my area of expertise, should I still volunteer?

Of course! Engineers are trained to solve problems. And, problem solving is an essential skill that the mentor needs to help the educator instill in the students. Teach them how to break a problem down into parts, research alternatives and develop a solution. And, as you would in your job, enlist the help of other engineers who are experts in the field.

What support will I have as a mentor?

This web site and the Educator Handbook outline all of the program components and have assessment rubrics, offer tips, and list the program rules. Your region may provide program orientations, in person and online training sessions, student help sessions, regular email updates, tip sheets, and maybe even a t-shirt! Find your region to learn about what is available in your area.

What advice can you give me on being a good role model?

Being a good role model means you show up when you promised. Make it easy for the kids to talk to you and ask questions. If you are intimidating, they will shy away. Don't lecture. Encourage discussion and talk to the students at their level of understanding. Be a team player. Be enthusiastic about your work and tell stories about your projects when you can relate it to a subject being discussed. Don’t do the work. Plant the seeds and watch them grow. Be supportive, no matter how outlandish some of their ideas may seem.

How do I teach them about engineering?

The most effective way is for you to share your enthusiasm for engineering. Start out by explaining what it is you do (but don’t overwhelm them with technical terms!) and give a brief overview of the wide range of things that other types of engineers do. Be sure to include what problems or social need engineers address (e.g., engineers develop satellites to detect droughts; engineers design and build schools to withstand earthquakes, etc.). Let's face it -- engineering is fun, a great career choice, and the students need to know it.

How do I bring engineering into Future City?

Future City is designed around the engineering design process—identifying problems; brainstorming ideas; designing solutions; testing, retesting and building; and sharing their results. Use this as your blueprint to coach your team and provide insights into what engineering really is. Guide them to where they can find the answers,;  bring in examples or subject-area experts;  explain information that may be a bit over their head, etc. And point out repeatedly that how they are working on Future City is how you approach your job as an engineer everyday.

What is the most important thing for the new mentors to know?

Experienced mentors tell us:

  • Future City is a multi-faceted program,  so don’t try and do it all at once. Set up a schedule and pace yourself to accomplish all of your goals.
  • Like any team, your Future City group will have ebbs and flows of energy. Keep them motivated and focused.
  • Don't let your adult world limit the students' imaginations. It is amazing what ideas these kids will generate. Once they have settled on a concept, make sure that it has a sound scientific basis.
  • Help the students get the most out of the program (e.g., how to: solve problems; work as a team; share ideas; think in 3D; and communicate their results).
  • Shoot for singles and not homeruns. Celebrate results.
Do I need to complete a background check before I start working with the students?

Check with your Regional Coordinator about the procedures for background checks.

Am I qualified to be a judge?

Yes. We provide detailed assessment tools (called rubrics) and scoring sheets so you will know exactly what we are looking for and how to judge the entries.

What will I be judging?

There are five different components to judge—the Virtual City (SimCity); the Essay; the City Narrative; the Model; and the Team Presentation. The Virtual City, Essay, and Narrative can all be judged from your home or work. You just need a computer. The Model and Team Presentation are in-person judging opportunities. Go to Get Involved for more information.

What is the time commitment for a judge?

It ranges from 8 to 20 hours depending what component(s) you want to judge and how much time you can commit.

What support do judges receive?

A Judges Handbook with the detailed assessment tools (called rubrics), scoring sheets, and even sample questions to ask during the Team Presentation will be available for download in October. Regions may also provide brief judging training sessions.

Will I be the only judge?

No, Future City is a team undertaking, including the judging. Each region tries to recruit enough judges so each component is judged by at least three separate judges and scores are averaged.  Share this opportunity with friends and colleagues and help us recruit more judges.

What is Be Mentors?

Be Mentors is a movement to help grow the future infrastructure professionals of tomorrow. The purpose of BeMentors is “To inspire future infrastructure leaders by promoting and supporting mentorship in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).” Benefits of being involved with BeMentors includes: networking with other mentors involved in outreach programs, free webinars, and opportunities to join in on-line discussions. To find out more about the BeMentors program go to www.bentley.com/bementors.