By: Erin Feichtner, Shirley Tang, and Ben Briston
On January 14, 2023, the Future City Pittsburgh Regional Competition was held at in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania. This middle-school STEM program involves teams of students using project management skills and engineering concepts to address sustainability issues and build a future city. This year’s students took on the climate change challenge, designing futuristic cities to be adaptable and mitigating the challenges from climate change. Participants were tasked with brainstorming creative solutions to construct healthy and sustainable living environments, which involved producing a city plan and essay, constructing a scale model of the city complete with moving parts, and presenting their vision to the judges.
Eighteen teams from Western Pennsylvania participated in this year’s Future City Pittsburgh Regional Competition. Members from the ASCE Pittsburgh Section helped judge the overall competition and the special awards. The special awards included recognition for Best Integrated City, Best Transportation System, Best Use of Green Construction, and many other achievements. The ASCE Pittsburgh Section sponsored the special award Best Future City Project, recognizing a team with an impressive use of engineering concepts and consideration to essential infrastructure systems such as stormwater drainage, landscaping, and utilities. This special award was won by Team Phamborough Sweden from West Mifflin High Area School, which made use of innovative city planning concepts as well as the use of multiple forms of renewable energy.
The event was an impressive showcase of the students’ awareness of the issue of climate change as well as their understanding of the technologies that may be implemented in the future for the benefit of our communities.
From Left to Right, Board Members Ben Briston, Shirley Tang, and Erin Feichtner at the Future City Pittsburgh Regional Competition
Asking young people to consider how the built world will function in the future is not unique to the Future City competition. One of Professor John Sebastian’s University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) engineering undergraduate class recently presented their semester final projects to several ASCE Pittsburgh Section members. Inspired by ASCE’s Future World Vision initiative, the topic of their undergraduate project was to develop design concepts and ideas for how to make Pitt’s campus functional 50+ years in the future. The class divided into 10 teams with various focus areas such as; Water & Environment, Construction & Materials, Transportation, and Energy & Utilities. Researching materials, technology, and systems currently in development they presented master plans that would help Pitt flourish despite predicted future challenges like climate change, alternative energy needs, advanced materials options, and autonomous vehicle integration.
For those ASCE members that attended both events, it was impressive to observe specific futuristic concepts that both the middle schoolers and undergraduate engineering students identified as being viable. Some of the recurring solutions were; vertical farming, EcoBricks, living/self-healing concrete, and Maglev Trains. As professionals we cannot just leave it to the next generation of engineers to come up with new innovations. We have a responsibility to do our own research and stay open to integrating new concepts into the industry so that we provide the public with the best built environment to survive the ever-changing world.
Read more about ASCE’s Future World Vision Initiative here: https://www.futureworldvision.org/why-future-world-vision.