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8th Grader is Building the City of Tomorrow at Future Cities Competition

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Huntsville, Alabama. When Isabel Waring arrived at her new middle school, the Academy for Science and Foreign Language, over two years ago, she saw the school’s Future Cities Competition team present their project at an open house. She immediately knew had to participate in the competition as soon as she was old enough. “I’m going to do that!” Waring told her mother after the presentation. 

Now an eighth grader, Waring is participating in the Future Cities Competition for the second year in a row. She couldn’t be more excited about it. Her school’s team, made up of ten seventh and eighth grade students, won the regional competition this year. On February 18-21 they will compete in the national round of the competition in Washington, DC against roughly 40 other teams. Waring hopes to replicate her school’s first place finish in last year’s competition. 

future cities competition
Isabel Waring shares the team’s futuristic city, Mauri, with a special awards judge at the regional competition.

During the Future City Competition, teams of students from across the country spend months creating a ‘city of the future’ with the mentorship of both a teacher and an engineer. Teams construct a scale model of their city using recycled materials costing less than $100. SimCity software is used to model their virtual cities in detail. To organize their work and keep on schedule, the teams create project plans based on the engineering design process. Teams are required to select one key city sustainability issue and research possible long-term solutions to that challenge.  Teams conduct a final presentation to share their virtual city and their strategy to address long-term sustainability with a panel of industry experts.

Waring’s achievements in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) have not gone unnoticed. Her performance at last year’s competition came to the attention of Smart Cities Investments (SCI) Founder and Chairman, Keary D. Hayes II.  “We do in real life what these students do in the mock competition,” said Hayes.

After hearing Isabel’s story, Hayes decided to recognize her potential by making the 13 year old a Junior Board Member of SCI.  “I’m going to let her work with us and learn how this industry really works.”

SCI brings real estate, transformational materials and technologies together with institutional banking through its Smart Cities Permanent Capital Vehicle (“PCV”). The SCI PCV is the first such fund that will invest exclusively in smart city projects and technologies with the goal to make urban centers more energy efficient, cleaner, healthier and ultimately more livable. 

“Isabel will have a seat at the table and the opportunity to take part in meetings, share her ideas and learn from the industry’s top leaders and visionaries,” said Hayes. “We hope to support Isabel’s passion for STEM by giving her this opportunity. She has great potential. She may be tomorrow’s Smart City leader”  

In Alabama, Waring’s team is eagerly preparing to travel to the nation’s capital to present their futuristic city to a panel of judges. The 2017 first place team will win a trip to Space Camp and $7,500.The theme of this year’s competition is “The Power of Public Spaces.” Students must design a city that exists at least 100 years in the future based on a common set of design parameters.

future cities competition
The scale size model of the team’s futuristic city, Mauri.

The team chose to locate their futuristic city, named Mauri, in New Zealand. In the native Maori language, Mauri means ‘essential life principles’. In line with this year’s theme, the team devised a city with what Waring describes as an “interconnected net of public spaces throughout the city.” The team has also incorporated renewable energy into the design of the city. “We’ve been focusing on wind, solar and hydroelectric energy. We are using vertical wind turbines and we are trying to take our own ideas and make them feasible with these different technologies.”

Waring’s favorite part of the Future City Competition is “getting the chance to network and meet people. I get to learn so many new things! I think that’s really cool.” 

The competition also allows Waring to combine two of her passions, public speaking and science. “When I saw my school’s team present for the first time, I was really impressed,” Waring said. “They really seemed to know what they were talking about and had confidence in what they were saying. I thought – that’s something I want to do!”

future cities competition
Isabel Waring displays her Future City Competition medal.

Working on the project motivated her to learn more about renewable energy, a topic she finds fascinating. “I love being able to talk about it and understand it,” she said. 

Waring’s mother, Lillian, is delighted about her daughter’s curiosity on the topic. “It’s great to see. Isabel will come home, do her homework, and then research renewable energy on her own.”

Waring says the prospect of being SCI’s youngest board member and taking part in the Future Cities Competition has encouraged her to consider pursuing a career in STEM. 

As for the upcoming national Future City Competition, Waring can’t wait to present what her team has worked on since August. “I really got hyped as soon as they announced the theme for this year. I was like, ok, let’s get started! I was ready.”

Soheila Yalpani View All

Soheila is the founder of and the Principal of Oppfinn Consulting. As a project manager and consultant, her interests lie at the intersection of innovation and societal impact. On, she writes about business, technology, travel and smart cities.

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