Can North Carolina students solve the world’s energy crisis?

Finding an alternative energy resource for fossil fuels remains a top priority, and academics, politicians and engineers are among those searching for solutions. This fall, middle schoolers will join them in tackling this issue.

As students return to school after summer vacation, North Carolina’s middle schoolers will be among many across the country participating in the National Engineers Week Foundation’s 19th annual Future City Competition.

Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade will be asked to design a method of providing electricity for a future city using an energy source that does not deplete natural resources and has limited impact on the environment.

Pre-registration for the popular competition is now open, allowing schools an opportunity to sign-up early and get organized for the fall. The deadline for schools nationwide to register is in late October.

Future City is also looking for engineering and technical professionals who may be interested in serving as mentors.

For this year’s competition, students start with a research essay describing their concept, which this year is themed Fuel Your Future: Imagine new ways to meet our energy needs and maintain a healthy planet.

As students envision new ways to produce electric power, they will identify the benefits and risks of their energy source solutions and provide suggestions on how to minimize the risks that their solutions present.

Participating students will use SimCity 4 Deluxe software to design a virtual Future City model incorporating their ideas. Then they will build a physical model using recycled materials which can cost no more than $100 to build.

As they address their alternative energy solutions, they will consider the safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance of their ideas. They will also learn about the engineering disciplines that encompass their solution, including learning and identifying the steps of the design process.

The 2011-12 Future City Competition is expected to attract more than 33,000 students from 1,000 middle schools in regions located across the country. The annual challenge has received national attention and acclaim for its role in encouraging middle schoolers nationwide to develop their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

North Carolina is one of nearly 40 regions taking part in this year’s competition.

Davidson IB Middle School in North Carolina took third place honors in the Future City National Finals earlier this year. The students won for their Future City Seiki. A city called Mamohatra, also engineered by students from Davidson IB Middle School, won the grand prize in 2010.

The competition gets underway with the new school year in the fall and culminates with the regional finals in January, 2012. The winning team from North Carolina will represent the state at the national finals that is scheduled during Engineer’s Week in February 2012.

The national grand prize winners will receive a trip to U.S. Space Camp courtesy of Bentley Systems, Inc.

The Future City Competition is a program of the National Engineers Week Foundation, a consortium of professional and technical societies and major U.S. corporations. Major funding for the national finals comes from Bentley Systems and Shell.

For information, school registration, or to volunteer, visit the North Carolina regional site at www.futurecitync.org/ or go to www.futurecity.org.

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