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Competition helps with STEM and SOLs

Students who participate in the Future City competition write an essay, build a virtual city and a material one. The competition is open to middle school students, grades 6-8. Enrollment ends Oct. 1.

A child’s desire to create is often evident even as early as preschool, when they’re using Legos to create plastic towns and cities.

To continue that passion for creativity and encourage it into high school and possibly adulthood, the Engineers Week Foundation is planning the 19th annual Future City Competition, which can also be used by teachers to meet Standards of Learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) requirements. Registration deadline is Oct. 1.

“The region we live in is so technologically advanced that a program like this can go a long way in preparing students for the future and helping aid in their success,” said regional coordinator Selena Griffett. “We need to broaden the horizons of our children so they can see the opportunities that are out there.”

The competition is held for middle school students, grades sixth through eight. Schools are invited to sign up and organize as many teams as they like. Teams consist of three students, which can serve as representatives for a larger group, a teacher and a mentor. The competition begins in September 2010.

This year’s theme focuses on the impact that engineers have on the healthcare industry by having students create a product or system that supports healthy living and wellness programs.

Students will begin by writing a research essay that describes their concept. They also must write a “city narrative” outlining the key features of an imaginary city that incorporates their healthcare ideas.

These methods not only help foster creativity in students, but they also help them make their ideas tangible.

As they envision the medical centers, clinics and hospitals of the future, students will also propose, design and develop the supporting infrastructure that would be integral to those facilities.

Using SimCity 4 Deluxe software, students will create a virtual Future City model by incorporating their ideas. Then, they will build a physical model using recycled materials.

The competition can be used to help meet Standards of Learning and STEM requirements.

“The neat thing about the program is that it highlights different strengths students might have,” Griffett said. “Those who are good at writing can contribute to the essay. Those who are good with computers can help with the virtual models. There’s really a little something for every student to be a part of.”

To find out more about signing up a team or becoming a volunteer, contact Griffett at 728-2038 or visit www.futurecityhamptonroads.org.