Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Students Compete to Develop Innovative Ways to Feed Future Cities

Food

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs have been extolled in the U.S. in recent years because American students consistently rank lower in math and science than their counterparts in other developed countries. DiscoverE, a non-profit dedicated to promoting the field of engineering, has received national attention for its efforts to encourage U.S. students to pursue engineering.

St. John Lutheran School takes home the grand prize of a trip to U.S. Space Camp and $7,500 for its school’s STEM program. Photo credit: Future City

One of the ways DiscoverE encourages students to pursue engineering is through its annual Future City Competition, in which middle school students from around the U.S. compete to design cities of the future. The winners of the national competition were announced yesterday.

There were 37 regional final competitions which took place in January. First-place winners from each regional competition advanced to the Future City Competition National Finals in Washington, D.C., which took place from Feb. 14-18. Finalists presented their ideas before a panel of judges that included some of the country's top tech leaders, NASA executives and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Every year, the non-profit encourages all students, even those who are not the math and science types, to participate. Forty thousand middle schoolers from 1,350 schools worked on their design projects from September until January. The annual challenge is one of the nation's leading engineering programs, and this year, the competition's theme is Feeding Future Cities.

The winners of South Florida's regional finals meet President Obama. Photo credit: Future City

"Experts predict that by the year 2030 nearly all of the world’s population growth will be concentrated in urban areas," said Future City. "At the same time, the Earth’s arable land may no longer be sufficient to produce enough food for the planet’s growing population." Given how unsustainable industrial-scale agriculture is, the Future City Competition challenged this year's students to find solutions to today's pressing agricultural problems.

This year's theme encouraged students "to explore today’s urban agriculture, from aeroponic systems for roof top farms to recycled gray water to the sustainability-driven farm-to-table movement, and develop a futuristic solution to growing crops within the confines of their city," DiscoverE said.

The students, who formed teams and received help from an educator and an engineer mentor, designed a virtual city using SimCity software. They researched existing urban farms and wrote an essay describing their solution to feeding their city. Students then built "a tabletop scale model of their city using recycled materials on a budget of $100 or less and wrote a brief narrative promoting their city," according to DiscoverE.

The North Dakota team meets Bill Nye. Photo credit: Future City

St. John Lutheran School in Rochester, Michigan, placed first for the second year in a row. Second place went to West Ridge Middle School from Austin, Texas. Academy for Science and Foreign Language from Huntsville, Alabama took third place. HEART of Science Cooperative from Rockwall, Texas took fourth, and Queen of Angels Regional Catholic School in Philadelphia took fifth.

The top five winners received scholarship money for their school's STEM program and the first-place team received a trip to the U.S. Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. There were also winners in two dozen categories, including "Best Use of Renewable Energy," "Most Sustainable Buildings" and "Best Management of Water Resources."

This year, the host at the Future City finals was aerospace engineer and TV personality Deysi Melgar, a young woman who hails from Mexico. She was a contestant in a similar engineering competition when she was in high school and has gone on to be a leader in a field that remains dominated by men.

Future City has been very successful in reaching out to girls and underserved students. Forty-six percent of participants this year were girls and 33 percent of participating schools had 50 percent or more of their students enrolled in the reduced or free lunch program.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Two Young Entrepreneurs Offer Way to Grow Food Even in the Dead of Winter

David Suzuki: ‘Young People Have the Power to Rally Others to Create Positive Change’

Watch Critically-Acclaimed ‘Momenta’ Now Available Online for Free

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Dominion Resources' coal-fired power plant located in central Virginia beside the James River. Edbrown05 / CC BY-SA 2.5

Corporations that flouted environmental regulations and spewed pollutants into the air and dumped them into waterways will not be required to pay the fines they agreed to during the pandemic, according to The Guardian.

Read More Show Less
The Ministry of Trade issued a regulation revoking its decision from February to no longer require Indonesian timber companies to obtain export licenses that certify the wood comes from legal sources. BAY ISMOYO / AFP / Getty Images

By Hans Nicholas Jong

The Indonesian government has backed down from a decision to scrap its timber legality verification process for wood export, amid criticism from activists and the prospect of being shut out of the lucrative European market.

Read More Show Less

Viruses, pollution and warming ocean temperatures have plagued corals in recent years. The onslaught of abuse has caused mass bleaching events and threatened the long-term survival of many ocean species. While corals have little chance of surviving through a mass bleaching, a new study found that when corals turn a vibrant neon color, it's in a last-ditch effort to survive, as CBS News reported.

Read More Show Less
Harmful algal blooms, seen here at Ferril Lake in Denver, Colorado on June 30, 2016, are increasing in lakes and rivers across the U.S. Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images

During summer in central New York, residents often enjoy a refreshing dip in the region's peaceful lakes.

But sometimes swimming is off-limits because of algae blooms that can make people sick.

Read More Show Less
A group of doctors prepared to treat coronavirus patients in Brazil. SILVIO AVILA / AFP via Getty Images

More than 40 million doctors and nurses are in, and they are prescribing a green recovery from the economic devastation caused by the new coronavirus.

Read More Show Less
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake hands during an event to launch the United Nations' Climate Change conference, COP26, in central London on February 4, 2020. CHRIS J RATCLIFFE / POOL / AFP / Getty Images

The U.K. government has proposed delaying the annual international climate negotiations for a full year after its original date to November 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The Upcycled Food Association announced on May 19 that they define upcycled foods as ones that "use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment." Minerva Studio / Getty Images

By Jared Kaufman

Upcycled food is now an officially defined term, which advocates say will encourage broader consumer and industry support for products that help reduce food waste. Upcycling—transforming ingredients that would have been wasted into edible food products—has been gaining ground in alternative food movements for several years but had never been officially defined.

Read More Show Less