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What will Detroit be like in 2150? Middle school students to design the future

“What do you want the City of Detroit to look like in 2150 and beyond?”

“What will make it cool in your eyes?”

Those are the questions Detroit area middle schoolers who compete in the Engineering Society of Detroit’s (ESD) Future Detroit competition will answer over the next two months. Their answers will help form a master plan for the future Detroit from a unique perspective.

The program is part of ESD’s 2010-2011 Michigan Regional Future City Competition and is open to all Detroit middle school students. In its sixteenth year, the Michigan Future City is a nationwide competition that challenges sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to “think big” and envision a city of the future in which they would like to live.

So far 25 schools from the City of Detroit will join more than 25 other schools from across Michigan participate in this year’s competition. Each team can spend just $100 to develop their project.

Guided by their teachers and volunteer engineer mentors, students have three months to develop a computer model, write an essay, build a physical model using engineering and mathematical principles, and then present their creation to professional judges during a daylong competition. That event will be held Monday, January 31, 2011 at the Rock Financial Showplace.

“This is an opportunity to bring dreams, science, math and engineering together and create a new city,” said Ron Smith, ESD’s director of education.

We want to eliminate the barriers that divide us. - Christopher Webb, ESD Institute Co-Director

Following the Future City competition, ESD will hold a “Future Detroit: Envisioning Tomorrow Together” symposium where students can discuss the ideas generated by their teams. This is ESD Institute’s first children symposium. All Future City teams will be invited to attend. The ideas and opinions offered by those teams will be used to develop a master plan for the City of Detroit.

“We want to help eliminate the barriers that divide us,” said Christopher Webb, ESD Institute co-director.

The program has the support of the Detroit Public Schools and the Detroit City Council.

“We are thrilled about this competition,” said Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh. “To envision the Detroit of the future is something we need to do and our young people need to be involved.”

Pugh also had an ask: “We need your help to fix Detroit now,” he told those attending the Future Detroit announcement at the Phoenix Multicultural Academy in Detroit.

DPS leaders are also on board and see this program as a way to develop future engineering talent. “We need more engineers in the US if we are going to compete globally,” said Anthony Adams, DPS board president. “We must get more people trained in technology.”

Many adults are ready to help these students “fix Detroit.” More than 300 professionals – college professionals, engineers, retirees and others – have donated their time to the project. Juniors and seniors from Lawrence Technological University, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University are among those mentoring the students.

This is a cool program, but the coolest thing is that these students are being asked to focus their efforts on Detroit, and best of all, the adults are going to listen to their ideas.

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