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Cities of the Future
Photo: Mike Gieson
Cities in the future will amaze as well as continue to be gathering places, according to the February 27, 2006, edition of USA Today in its report about the winners of the National Engineers Week Future City Competition.

In the year-long contest, seventh and eighth-graders from 31 schools created novel solutions for issues with which cities struggle. Picture the challenges of generating power for technology, preparing for natural disasters, and providing green space in the midst of the concrete jungle.

In addition to creating table-top models demonstrating their solutions, participants wrote essays about redevelopment of aging structures. Some of the proposals:
  •      Hydroelectric shoes to generate power for cell phones
  •      Photo-voltaic paint that captures 80% of the sun’s energy
  •      Using ocean waves to generate electricity
  •      Placing buildings underground so that grass and plants can thrive.
  •      Underground buildings would feel less constricted through the use of holographic windows.
  •      Self-repairing roads.
Engage the Future

Invite some of your friends to brainstorm the future of your community. To prepare,collect basic facts such as unemployment rates, population density, age of infrastructure, disaster preparedness, and power sources. How does your community deal with poverty, literacy, and hunger? What market forces shape the strategic planning for the future? What kind of growth is projected?

To get a more complete picture of the issues affecting your community, interview representatives of social service organizations. What are the needs? How long have these needs been an issue? Is any headway being made? How is the community responding to these needs? Based on the current response, what issues will face the community in five and ten years?

With data in hand, plan a brainstorming gathering. Check with the library or the city planning office for the availability of an overhead photo of the community. Then prepare paper squares with codes or drawings of community elements such as retail, residential, schools, police and fire stations, medical care facilities, banks, parks, etc.

During the brainstorming have participants place the paper squares where they think it would be ideal. Remind them to consider elements such as high power lines, bodies of water, highways, etc. Ask the group to focus on creative ways  in which the community can handle increasing density of people and buildings. Discuss the options for becoming more involved in your community in order to have an impact on future planning.

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