Is This the First Post-Car-Dependent Generation in America?
Is this the first generation of kids in the United States who may not be car dependant? Teenagers from schools across the United States have been entering a competition to design a future city, and the winning solutions do not involve cars.
The theme of the annual Future City competition this year was Tomorrow's Transit: Design A Way To Move People In And Around Your City.
Gregory Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems Incorporated, one of the competition's major sponsors, said, having viewed the entries: "We sort of have the first generation, I think now, in the United States, who are not committed to having a car to be a part of their life".
If true, it's great news for the sustainability of future transportation in the United States.
Moving people around in a way that does not cause congestion, pollution and climate change is a key problem for most cities in the world. The challenge to find solutions was undertaken by 40,000 middle school students from 1,350 schools across the USA.
At the finals, in Washington DC as part of Engineers Week, February 16-20, 37 teams from the schools presented their ideas the judges. The winner (right), which took back to their school $7500, was St John Lutheran School in Michigan, whose team members also won a trip to US space camp.
They called the model on which their city's transportation solution, Gongping, was based FAIR: Flexible, Accessible, Integrated and Renewable. Gongping means 'fair' in Chinese. These were the four criteria they chose as crucial to a successful transportation system.
The students, Rebecca Oleskie, 14, Paul Rosa, 13 and Justin Judd, 13, and their teacher, Jon Pfund, were helped by a mentor, Linda Gerhardt, PhD, an engineer with General Motors in Warren, MI.
"Future City made me understand city planning and how important it is to all of us." Rebecca added, "I've been competing in Future City for three years and this is my last year of eligibility. So that makes this recognition even more meaningful."
Other winners include Leila Mezza, Oha Hassan and Mousa Seid from Houston, Texas, whose imagined city was in Brazil in 2084. Its transport relied on electric cars charged by solar power. "These garages have photovoltaic cells and whenever our cars are parked over here, they get their energy to drive later on," said Mezza.
An even more imaginative vision was presented by David Straub, Katherine Barri and Rebecca North from Georgia, who envisaged "a new system that has a focus on magnetic frequency, which will allow people to levitate and float along the magnetic fields," said Straub. He pointed out that public transport using this technology would be effortless and eco-friendly.
The Future City Competition is a major US engineering education program run by DiscoverE designed to encourage teenagers to seek a career in science, technology, engineering and math. Students also had to submit a research essay on the theme, incorporate their ideas in a virtual model using SimCity™ software (below) and build a physical model using recycled materials valued at no more than $100.
They present their ideas before judges at Regional Competitions in January. Regional winners represent their region at the National Finals in Washington, DC in February each year.