Will future cities be all under one roof, or comprised of transportable buildings? Such flights of fancy may be among those tried out as part of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition.

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Conducted as part of the upcoming Engineers Week (eweek.org), the annual competition introduces tens of thousands of seventh and eighth graders to the rigors of creating cities of tomorrow. As part of the process, they work with a volunteer engineer mentor, who guides students through the complicated realities of creating a future community with a complete, working infrastructure, from skyscrapers and parks to transportation and energy. Along the way, students discover the role of engineering in their own lives, and their potential to take on that role themselves.

Engineers Week, founded in 1951 by the National Society of Professional Engineers, is among the oldest of America’s professional outreach efforts. This year’s events will take place from Feb. 15 to 21. Managing the event is the National Engineers Week Foundation, comprised of more than 100 professional societies, major corporations, and government agencies, that all aim to ensure a diverse and well-educated future engineering workforce. The Foundation plans events designed to boost interest in engineering and technology careers among young students and promote precollege literacy in math and science.

One event, Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, or Girl Day, allows thousands of women engineers, with support from their male counterparts, to directly mentor more than 1 million girls and young women in K-12 with firsthand experiences in engineering. This year Girl Day is on Feb. 19.

The Future City Competition is one of the week’s biggest events. Engineers who have served as mentors in the event say there is plenty of satisfaction in the experience. “There is so much to be gained from working with these youths,” explains Catherine Anderson, engineer mentor at Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell, Ga. The annual competition asks students to create cities on computers using SimCity 4 Deluxe, build a large, tabletop model of a portion of their city, prepare an oral presentation, and write an abstract and essay. This year’s essay challenges students to develop homes with selfsustaining water systems. To ensure a level playing field, models must use recycled materials and can cost no more than $100.

More than 30,000 students from a record-number 1,111 schools participated in 2007 and 2008. Winning teams, including their volunteer mentors, from 40 regional competitions across the country receive an all-expense-paid trip to the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

Every day, engineers around the world volunteer an untold number of hours by giving back and reaching out to possible future engineers. National Engineers Week organizers want the world to know and see the collective strength of these efforts and are challenging all engineers to not only contribute to outreach activities, but log their volunteer hours on a newly designed Web site. The goal: To reach 1 million hr of outreach in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

Volunteer activities may include visiting a classroom, participating in an extracurricular or community activity, hosting a Design Squad event, helping out with National Family Day, coaching a Future City Competition team, attending or presenting at a career fair, volunteering with organizations such as Mathcounts or Jets, or supporting robotics competitions, or any design or engineering-related competition.

Visit the Million Hours Campaign home page at millionhours.djangodomain.com to log in your volunteer hours.

Edited by Victoria Burt