The Future City Competition | UL Innovative Education Award
Grand Prize Winner

The Future City Competition

DiscoverE
Virginia

Future City is a project-based learning competition that asks teams in middle schools throughout the U.S. to imagine, research, and design virtual reality scale models of cities of the future that emphasize environmental sustainability, with a goal of making the world a better place.

One of the many aspects that sets Future City apart is its use of technology in the classroom, providing students with specialized SimCity software with which to design their future sustainable city, in addition to more traditional methods, such as essays and presentations. Simultaneously Future City tasks its participants with tackling pressing environmental challenges, such as clean energy, clean water, solid waste management, storm water runoff, and urban agriculture within their city design.

Judges Comment

"What was so impressive about DiscoverE and the Future City Competition was their ability to use environment as a pathway to STEM and also expand the definition of the environment to encompass much more. They focus beyond watersheds, parks, and nature preserves to truly embrace the planning of a city – the layout, energy structure, and renewable energies. UL works to expand definitions of safety and what it takes to make a better world: the world has to be safe, it has to be healthy, and we have to take care of the planet. Future City uses a similar holistic definition. The program demonstrates the continuum of how science, learning, and advocacy work together. Through this expanded definition of environment, DiscoverE’s competition model demonstrated excellence. It shows that class leaders, who may identify as scientists, engineers, or even nerds, also thrive on competition, on winning and doing good. This is definitely a strategy to motivate future scientists, engineers, and city planners. We love that this project doesn’t separate nature from human beings – it recognizes the value of understanding the complexity of human ecological systems. Inherently, we’re talking about critical thinking and systems thinking. DiscoverE demonstrated innovation in civics, learning theory, and inclusivity of environmental topics that are relevant to youth today. That’s what appealed to us. The program has great potential for international growth that can really take innovative environment thinking to the next level."