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Ways to Get Involved



Student Learning
What will my students learn?

This cross-curricular educational program gives students the opportunity to do the things that engineers do—identify problems; learn the specs and brainstorm solutions; design solutions; build it, test and retest; and share their results. This process is called the engineering design process. With this at its center, Future City is an engaging way to build students’ 21st century skills while they apply math and science concepts to real-world problems.

What will my students do?

Future City is a flexible, project based learning experience that you can adapt for your classroom, after-school club, or homeschool group. Students will utilize their science, math and engineering knowledge to create cities that exist at least 100 years in the future. The program’s various components—designing with computers, building scale models, researching, writing, and public speaking—make it accessible to a variety of students and relevant for educators with various areas of subject matter expertise. More at About the Competition.

Is Future City aligned with educational standards?

Yes! Future City meets the national standards for math, science, and technology education as defined by the Next Generation Science Standards, the Common Core State Standards, and the National Science Education Standards, the Project 2061 Benchmarks for Science Literacy, the National Educational Technology Standards, and the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics. View Standards.

Does Future City accommodate gifted and/or exceptional children?

Yes, it is an open-ended challenge you can easily adapt to your students' abilities. Teachers and parents report that Future City is a transformational program with exceptional student growth and learning for all students. If you would like to make significant programmatic changes to accommodate your students' abilities, be sure to contact your Regional Coordinator to determine your eligibility for regional finals.

Getting Started
Who can participate?

Future City is open to teams of students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.

Do I have to register?

Yes. Every organization that is using the Future City program needs to register, even those that are not planning on competing. By registering, you receive all of the materials you need to successfully implement the program. It also helps us know how many students are participating and in what ways. Register Here

How much does it cost?

$25.00 per organization--you can register 1 team or 100. The price always stays the same. Additional costs may include supplies for the model and presentation but this cost is limited to a $100 budget and most teams offset it by using recycled materials. Teams may also incur travel costs to the regional competition. Teams that win their regional competition receive airfare and hotel accommodations for five members of their team (the three official presenting students, the educator and the mentor.)

How many teams can I bring to the regional competition?

This varies by region. Teams that win their regional competition receive airfare and hotel accommodations for five members of their team. Email your Regional Coordinator to find out how many teams you are allowed to bring.

Does my team have to compete?

No. Future City is first and foremost an education program, not a competition program. You can choose any of the Competition Deliverables that fit your learning goals—the Virtual City Design to teach city planning; the City Essay to strengthen research and writing skills; or the City Model to understand scale, potential and kinetic energy, and city planning.

How many students are on a team?

Teams come in all sizes—a whole class, a group of 10 kids, or 3 students. As you near competition time, you’ll need to identify the 3 students who will officially present the team’s work at the Regional Competition. Read more about Forming Your Team.

How do educators fit Future City into their schedule?

Some educators offer Future City as part of a class, some split the work between class and after school, and others do the program after school. Each educator must figure out what works for them. Explore About the Competition to get a better idea of the time required to complete the program.

What is the competition timeline?

Most educators register in the spring or summer, and then get to work as soon as the school year begins. Following the Planning Timeline, educators are able to work through the entire program in the Fall in order to be ready to compete at the Regional Competition in January. If you are not planning on competing, you have a bit more flexibility, but make sure to register by mid-October to ensure that you get all of the support that we offer. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making it happen
What is the time commitment?

The program runs from August or September to January, with Regional Competitions held in January and Finals in February. Educators may spend approximately 35-45 hours while students may spend 50 to 70 hours on the project. Some people partner with colleagues to help coach the team—the tech or science teacher to lead the Virtual City Design, the English teacher to oversee the City Essay, and the art or math teacher to lead the City Model building. Read more about Leading Your Team to get a sense of the time required.

What resources are available?

A new and improved educator handbook details everything you need to know about the competition. In addition the handbook contains classroom activities to support student learning, and great project planning resources. Additional online and print resources related to the current year’s theme are posted to the web in the Resources section. In addition photos and videos of previous years’ projects and presentations are posted in the Gallery and can serve as invaluable guides.

What support will I have?

After you register, you will be contacted by your Regional Coordinator who can answer any questions you may have along the way. Some regions offer local trainings and webinars in addition to the National-level ones scheduled. You will also be able to enlist the support of a local STEM mentor. 

How do I find a mentor?

The best place to start is in your community of parents or by looking to local businesses or universities. If you are having trouble finding a mentor your Regional Coordinator can help you find a mentor.

Getting help
How can I involve my colleagues?

Some people partner with colleagues to help coach the team—the tech or science teacher can lead the Virtual City Design, the English teacher can oversee the City Essay and Presentation, and the art or math teacher can help lead the City Model building.

Do you have any advice for working with my mentor?

Yes, a planning meeting with your mentor is critical. Ask your mentor: what role would they like to play; how often can they meet with the students; what works best for their schedule; are they available via skype or email? Share with your mentor: what support or guidance you and your team need; tell him or her the best way to reach you; give your mentor advice about working with middle school students. Don’t stop there, continued communication will help ensure the development of a meaningful partnership. Review the Mentor page to more fully understand what we ask of mentors.

How do I help my students with...?

Your students will look up to you every step of the way. Review Leading Your Team for help in determining the order in which you present all of the pieces of this project. In addition, review the Program Handbook and Resources page as they contain great classroom activities to help explain the tough concepts. And remember, you don’t always need to have the answers! Set a good example by doing the research along with your students.



Student Learning
What will I teach the students?

As students work through the challenge they’ll encounter many new things and will look to you for guidance, including: project management, scale, and even hand tool techniques. But the best thing you can do is to introduce students to what it’s like to be a real engineer, about the different engineering career paths available to them, and about how engineers approach and solve real world problems. See more about different engineering fields at www.DiscoverE.org/discover-engineering.

How do I teach students about engineering?

We provide a detailed handbook with classroom activities that help elucidate the different steps in the engineering design process. But you’ll provide the secret sauce--real stories about engineering in action. Students love stories, especially ones that have a surprise ending. Describe a project that didn’t go as planned, and tell the students how you re-engineered a solution to the problem. Bring objects to class that the students can touch and feel. Students would love to see technical drawings, material samples, or even marketing materials that demonstrate clear communication. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Getting started
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. See our Community and Impact.

What does the mentor do?

As a mentor you provide advice, guidance, and technical assistance as your students work on the various project components. 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 city essay topic, and brainstorming possible solutions. Later, you’ll help with the model, teaching the students about scale, and helping them fine-tune their presentation. Making yourself available by email to review things like the city essay and ideas of futuristic components is helpful too. Just remember you are the advisor and the students do the actual work.

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 city description 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 or technical professionals who are experts in the field.

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

Experienced mentors tell us: 1. 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. 2. Like any team, your Future City group will have ebbs and flows of energy. Keep them motivated and focused. 3. 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. 4. 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). 5. Shoot for singles and not homeruns. Celebrate results. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making it Happen
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.

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. Read about different team formats to understand the possibilities.

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, city 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 classes and after school, and others do the program as part of an after school club or program.

Do I need to complete a background check before I start working with the students?

Check with your educator and Regional Coordinator to determine whether you will need a background check to work with your assigned program. Rules vary from state to state, district to district, and school to school. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Getting Help
What support will I have as a mentor?

This web site and the Educator Handbook outline all of the program components, provide classroom learning activities, have assessment rubrics, list the program rules, and offer tons of tips. 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.

How can I involve my colleagues?

Encourage your colleagues to become a mentor as well. You can work together to mentor the same team, or you can refer your friend to the Regional Coordinator, in order to find another team in need of a mentor. In addition, encourage your colleagues to serve as judges, and ask your company leaders if they would consider signing on as a sponsor.

Does the Future City program provide assistance in requesting time off to volunteer for this program?

Many companies provide paid time off to volunteer in the community. Unfortunately, we do not have an exhaustive list of all of those companies, nor can we stay up-to-date on company policies. We strongly encourage you to connect with your human resources department to determine whether or not they will approve paid time off to serve as a mentor. If you need detailed information about what you will be doing, please contact your Regional Coordinator for assistance.



Getting Started
What will I do on a Future City Team?

Future City has five different pieces that all need to be completed – designing the SimCity, researching and writing the city description, building the model, developing a project plan, and presenting the city to the judges. Most teams work together to come up with the big ideas and direction for their city and then they divide up the work depending on a teammate’s interests and skills. Talk to your teammates, your educator coach, and mentor about what parts of Future City you are most interested in.

How do I sign-up and get started?

Your team educator or mentor must register your team online. Once your team is registered you will be sent Sim City codes, and will be able to start working on all of the Competition Deliverables.

Can I work with my friends?

Of course you can work with your friends. No one works alone, as you need a minimum of three people on each team.

Can I start working on my own?

Not so fast. Future City is always a team effort! You’ll need a minimum of three people, and it always helps to have a few more. If you’re finding this on your own, share this website with your teacher or afterschool leader and ask him or her to help you find some teammates and register! Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making It Happen
How long does Future City take?

The program starts at the beginning of school and goes to January, when the regional competition takes place. Some teams have classroom time to work on the project, while other teams complete all work after school and on the weekends.

It looks like a lot of work! How will I get through it all?

It is a lot of work, but that’s why it’s a team project! You can divide and conquer. Some students can work on researching and writing the city description, while others plan the physical model. And now we have some great project management tools you and teammates can use to help you stay on track.

What is the competition like?

At the regional competition you will display your city model in a science fair type setting. Other middle school students and educators from around the region will get a chance to see your work, and you can check out theirs. You will also be sent to a private judging room to deliver your 5 - 7 minute presentation in front of a panel of 3 - 5 judges from local STEM industries. Finally, specialty award judges will ask you questions about specific aspects of your city. At the end of the day, finalists will present their work, awards will be announced, and prizes will be distributed. The entire competition often feels more like a celebration than an intense competition. It’s a lot of fun!

What prizes can I win?

Each region presents its own awards and prizes at the regional competition. You’ll have to ask your educator what is typically done in your region. Teams that win their regional competition are given a free trip to Washington, DC in order to compete at the national competition. National winners can win a trip to Space Camp, and cash for their school’s STEM programs. Check out all of the Awards and Prizes distributed at nationals. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Getting Help
How can my mentor help?

You should consider your mentor a professional advisor. You can ask him or her any technical questions that you have, especially ones that your educator may not be able to answer. If your mentor doesn’t know the answer to a question, he or she will help you look it up. He or she may give you a lesson on technical drawing, using hand tools, or scale. In addition, your mentor knows what it takes to be an engineer in real life -- he or she can answer your questions about engineering careers.

Can my parents help?

We hope that you will tell your parents all about what you’re doing. And you can certainly ask them what they think about your ideas. If they have an area of expertise, encourage them to come into school to share the information with your entire class or team. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.



Getting started
Do I need to be an engineer to serve as a judge?

Judges should have a technical background sufficient to understand and evaluate the student’s work. Future City provides extensive assessment rubrics and training.

What is the time commitment?

The time commitment varies, ranging from 5 - 10 hours. Be sure to let the Regional Coordinator how much time you can commit to the program when you first register as a judge and they will make sure you have a judging assignment that is right for you.

Where does judging take place?

You can judge Virtual City Slideshows and City Essays from the comfort of your own home or office. If you would like to judge the students’ City Models and their City Presentations, you’ll need to attend the Regional Competition, which is hosted in January. Determine your region and then check the schedule to find out where and when your regional competition is held. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

When does judging take place?

Judging of the Virtual City Slideshows and City Essays typically takes place at your convenience in December and early January. Judging at the Regional Competition typically takes place on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday in January, depending on your region's schedule.

Are there training sessions?

There are online training videos posted on the website for you to review at any time. In addition, every year there is at least one webinar hosted just for judges. Most regions also host in-person training sessions for rookie judges. Contact your Regional Coordinator to determine their offerings.

Can I serve as a judge if I am currently mentoring a team?

If you are serving as a mentor for a team competing at regionals, we ask that you DO NOT also serve as a judge, due to any perceived or real conflicts of interest. In future years, you may choose to judge rather than mentor a team. Serving as a judge can certainly give you a unique perspective on the competition and improve your ability to serve as a mentor.

Making It Happen
How do I judge the Virtual City Slideshow?

Are you familiar with SimCity? Judge Slideshows that teams have created, analyzing city development and progress towards two goals of the students' choice. We provide a detailed rubric and an easy-to-use online scoring system. Judging typically takes place in December and January and can be done remotely from your home or office. Judges commit 5 or more hours, depending on availability and interest.

How do I judge the City Essay?

As a City Essay judge, you’ll read 1,500-word essays where students describe their city, outline their solution and describe how it works. We provide a detailed rubric and an easy-to-use online scoring system. Judging typically takes place in the comfort of your own home in December and January. Judges commit 5 - 10 hours, depending on availability and interest. Stay tuned for the 2016-2017 theme, to be announced in late spring. 

How do I judge City Models and City Presentations?

Are you looking for a chance to see tomorrow’s leaders in action? As a judge at the Regional Competition, you will see teams present their city’s unique features, learn how they came up with their ideas, and have a chance to ask questions. We provide a detailed rubric and scoresheet, as well as a team of fellow judges. Judges must be available for 5-10 hours on competition day, typically a Saturday in January. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

What are Special Awards?

Regional and national coordinators invite industry professionals to present special awards to teams that have tackled additional city-design challenges. Typically award topics are related to industry sponsors’ area of expertise. Check out the list of special awards given at National Finals. Regional-level special awards vary. 


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Student Learning
What will my child learn in Future City?

Future City is designed around the engineering design process—identifying problems; brainstorming ideas; designing solutions; testing, retesting and building; and sharing results. With this at its center, your child will learn how to break down a large problem into manageable pieces, strengthen his or her understanding of core science and math concepts, learn the value of teamwork, and gain an understanding of engineering.

The program seems very demanding. Is it appropriate for middle school students?

Yes! 40,000 middle school students participate every year. Kids are the drivers of the Future City experience. They come up with the ideas and execute the plan. By owning the project, with assistance from adults, they develop skills in such areas as leadership, time management, systems thinking, and teamwork.

Getting Started
What is the time commitment for my child?

Students may spend 50 to 70 hours on the project. Future City can take place in the classroom, in an after-school club, or sometimes it is a mix of the two.

How much does it cost?

There is a low registration fee of just $25 per organization. That fee covers all of an organization’s teams, from one to one hundred. Additional costs include the $100 budget for the model and presentation supplies. A team may also incur some travel costs going to the Regional Competition. Talk to the team's educator about any financial support that the team might need.

I homeschool my child. Can we form a team?

Absolutely. Teams from home schools are welcome. You will just need to submit the Home School Affidavit to confirm that you are covering material appropriate for 6th, 7th, or 8th grade.

Is my child eligible to participate?

Future City is open to children in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. It is for children of all abilities, learning styles, and academic interests. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making It Happen
Does my child have to compete?

No. Future City is first and foremost an educational program. Encourage your child to talk to the educator or engineer mentor about what role best suits his or her talents and interests.

When are the different competition deliverables due?

Read all about the Competition Deliverables and typical planning timeline. Each region has different due dates. Please check in with your educator to determine when each of the items is due. Due dates typically range from late November to early January. Email your Regional Coordinator for  more information. 

Getting Help
How can I help my child?

Like any team-based experience, there will be ebbs and flows of energy. Help keep your child motivated and focused. Don't let your adult world limit your child’s imagination. It is amazing what ideas he or she will generate. Be supportive of their ideas and celebrate his or her achievements.

How does the engineering mentor help?

The engineering mentor serves as an advisor to the team. He or she may visit the classroom or after-school program to answer questions or teach the students about his or her specialty area. Mentors serve as professional role models and help motivate the students.



Getting Started
What kind of volunteers do you need?

In addition to STEM professional mentors and judges, we need volunteers who are willing to lend a hand at the Regional Competition. Volunteers may be asked to help out at the registration table, set-up lunch, distribute medals, or even direct traffic. Any adult who is excited about the program’s mission and is able to work productively in a team environment is qualified and encouraged to participate.

What is the time commitment?

Volunteers typically commit 3 - 8 hours on a Saturday in January at the regional competition. Determine your region, and check the schedule, to find out where and when your regional competition is held. Some regions may need some volunteer assistance prior to competition day. Be sure to let your Regional Coordinator know if you are available or interested in helping out with event preparations. If you are interested in devoting time to the program throughout the year, you may even consider joining the Regional Coordinator's planning committee.

How do I sign-up?

Please register as a volunteer, and email your Regional Coordinator to let him or her know your exact availability and your strengths and interests.

Making it happen
As a parent, if I volunteer will I still be able to see my child present?

We’re glad you’re interested in volunteering. Be sure to let your Regional Coordinator know that you are a parent and that you would like a volunteer assignment that will enable you to fully support your child. You will likely be assigned to help out with tasks at the very beginning of the competition, or at the conclusion of the competition.

What should I wear?

Your Regional Coordinator will give you all of the pertinent details about event day. But our advice is to wear comfortable shoes, as it is generally a very busy day!

Do I need a background check?

Check with your Regional Coordinator. Some regional competitions are held on school property and have specific rules about volunteers on campus.

What kind of specific tasks do you need help with leading up to the event?

Again, check with your Regional Coordinator, as needs vary from region to region. Often regions could use help printing name tags or event day programs, creating signs, or filling student goody bags.

What are some examples of specific tasks that you need help with on event day?

Again, check with your Regional Coordinator, as needs vary from region to region. On event day, volunteers help set-up the venue, moving chairs and tables, and hanging signs, they help register teams, and judges as they arrive, they support judges, assisting with timing, or double checking scoresheets. Volunteers might be asked to help serve lunch, and/or clean-up lunch, sell raffle tickets, distribute and collect surveys. The list goes on. Be sure to let your Regional Coordinator know if you have preferences about your volunteer role.


Getting Started
What is the time commitment for regional committee members?

The time commitment is highly variable, and based upon the tasks which interest you. Most committees meet virtually or in-person at least once a month to discuss plans, and then each committee member works independently on their own tasks.

Who typically volunteers?

Engineers, architects, local business leaders, parents, educators, Future City alumni, etc.

Can I volunteer from home?

Yes! Regions are quite large and need volunteers who can work independently between meetings. Email your Regional Coordinator for more information.

Making It Happen
I’m interested in joining the committee, how should I proceed?

Contact your local Regional Coordinator. Be sure to share your strengths and interests, and your time availability. Meet the rest of the committee at the next committee meeting.

My company would like to financially support the committee or the program.

Thank you! We couldn’t sustain this program without financial support from industry. In order to support the program in your specific region, please contact the Regional Coordinator. There are many sponsorship opportunities. Read more about our sponsors.