Middle school students across the country will be challenged to design waste management systems of the future in this year’s Future City Competition.

This national, project-based learning experience challenges students in 6th, 7th and 8th grade to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future. Keeping the engineering design process and project management front and center, students are asked to address an authentic, real-world question: How can we make the world a better place?

DiscoverE, a non-profit organization, sponsors the event each year to inspire and inform present and future generations on engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

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Previous Future City winners presented their project at the White House Science Fair.

For the 2015-16 school year, the competition theme is Waste Not, Want Not. Working in a team with an educator and engineer mentor, students will present their waste management solutions and vision of their future city in a virtual city design (using SimCity™ software), a 1,500 word city description, a scale model of their city (built with recycled materials), and with a short presentation to a panel of STEM professionals. Teams from 37 regions will present their ideas at the regional competitions in January. Winners represent their regions at the national finals in Washington, DC in February.

Over the years, cities and towns have managed their ever-expanding piles of trash in a variety of ways, including dumping it into landfills, burning it in incinerators, or shipping it off in trucks and barges. Such waste management systems contribute to air and water pollution and can be expensive and energy intensive.

Students will design waste management systems for residential use and small businesses by looking at issues such as collection, separation, processing, recycling, health and safety, energy efficiency, environmental impact and cost. Students will learn how engineers and city planners deal today with citywide sustainability issues like solid waste management. They will research cutting edge technologies and imagine and design a plausible and futuristic solution that can exist for generations.

More than 40,000 students representing 1,350 schools take part in the Future City® Competition each year. The deadline to register is October 31 at www.futurecity.org.