New York - Capital Region

Regional Coordinator: Addyson Lyons

The theme for 2020-21 is announced: Living on the moon

Award-winning Future City® Competition announces theme for 2020-21:

ALBANY -  September 30, 2020 – The dream of living on the Moon has inspired humanity for eons. Artists, writers, scientists, engineers, futurists and many others have vividly imagined what a thriving city on the lunar surface might look like. 

Today, the challenges of sustained lunar living, while immense, are within our grasp to conceive of and plan for. With this goal in mind, the award-winning Future City® Competition, now in its 29th year, announces Living on the Moon, the 2020-21 theme for its project-based learning experience for middle schoolers. 

Imagine life on the moon at least one hundred years from now, when lunar habitats have already progressed through multiple levels of development. What started as a collection of lunar landers expanded into an outpost, then a village and is now a city. The Future City challenge is to build on this history, describe its location, share its innovative features and provide a detailed description of how the city uses the Moon’s unique resources to create a self-sustaining home where humans can live, work and thrive.

Each year, over 45,000 students, representing 1,500 schools and 50 regions in the US and abroad, take part in the Future City Competition. Teams present their ideas at Regional Competitions in early 2021. Last year was the Future City-Albany Region’s 19th year of participating in the competition. In January, 200 local students participated from 15 schools and organizations, making up a total of 21 teams. Regional winners then face off at the Future City Finals, where they are joined by a growing roster of international teams, including those from Canada and China. Last year the Burnt-Hills Ballston-Lake School District’s Richard H. O’Rourke Middle School came in 4th place nationally, winning the Honorable Mention award for their city “Neosparta.” The team also won the specialty award, “The City of the Future that Best Incorporates Cultural and Historical Resources,” sponsored by the Cuban-American Association of Civil Engineers, Inc.

During this coming school year, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students from across the country and abroad will be asked to identify and tackle the many daunting challenges that are unique to living on the Moon, including no breathable atmosphere; gravity that is only 1/6 of that on Earth; nights that last for 14 Earth days; constant exposure to solar radiation; and dust that’s sharp as glass and gets into every crevice. 

Working as a team with an educator and STEM mentor, students present their vision of the future through a 1,500 word city essay; a scale model of their city (built with recycled materials); a project plan to help keep their project on track; a short video presentation, and a live, online Q&A session with a panel of technical judges. 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? 

In 2020-21, for the first time ever, the program has been adapted to today’s virtual world. Both Albany’s regional finals and the Future City Finals will take place completely online. Celebrating their 20th year participating in the international program, the Albany Region will conduct judging of major deliverables between December and February. A live Question and Answer session with judges will be held virtually on February 13, in lieu of the traditional in-person competition. The winner of the Albany Region will be announced at an awards ceremony on February 27 in a virtual celebration. That winner of the Regional Competition will then go on to compete virtually at the Future City Finals in April 2021. The exciting competition culminates with one team taking home the grand prize of a trip to U.S. Space Camp and $7,500 for their school’s STEM program (provided by Finals sponsor Bentley Systems).

“This has been an exciting year of space exploration,” said Future City Albany Regional Coordinator Diane Bertok. “SpaceX’s Dragon 2 launched to the International Space Station in May, the Space Force was created in December as an official division of the United States Department of Defense, and three missions to Mars have been launched including NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. Never has it been more exciting for middle school students to make their imaginations take flight in outer space than today in 2020. Locally, we are excited to make this, our 20th year of participating in the award-winning STEM program, the first year we take home the grand prize and send our local students to Space Camp.”

The deadline to register for this year’s Future City Competition is October 31, 2020. Register today or learn more at Visit our Facebook page for more information and updates on the Future City® Competition. 

Future City has ongoing opportunities for engineering and technical professionals to volunteer in a number of different roles, including team mentors, virtual competition judges, and regional coordinators. For more information about Future City and volunteer opportunities, visit

One of the nation’s leading engineering education programs and among the most popular, Future City has received national recognition and acclaim for its role in encouraging middle schoolers to develop their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). In 2017 Future City received a prestigious national award as a leading engineering education program, as it was recognized by US2020 and co-founding sponsors Chevron and Tata Consultancy Services for its achievements and innovations in STEM education and its accessibility to underrepresented youth. 

The Future City-Albany Regional competition is made possible through the contributions of hundreds of volunteers and the financial support of local companies. Locally, major funding comes from Siemens Industry, Inc., Capital District Engineers Week, CHA Consulting, Inc., AECOM, the American Society of Highway Engineers-Albany Section, Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., and the Sage Colleges of Albany.


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