Future City: Experience the design ingenuity and steadfast exuberance of our future engineers

Future City: Experience the design ingenuity and steadfast exuberance of our future engineers

September 16, 2014

Authored by Maia Watkins, a consultant in CH2M HILL’s operations management group in our Atlanta office.


Atlanta office volunteers (L to R): Kevin Middlebrooks, Maia Watkins, Tami Hanlin, Alan Bowling.

What Future City involvement means to me is a chance to unplug from my daily routine and take a fresh look at the design ingenuity and steadfast exuberance of our future scientists and engineers who will build a better world for us all. It is a peek into the ideas, hypotheses, challenges and solutions that could present themselves over the course of the next 35 or so years. The best part is that this temporary interruption to my routine only takes a few hours, but I suspect the effects will linger for several lifetimes.

I have volunteered as a Special Awards Judge for the Future Cities Competitions for the past three years. From year-to-year, my experiences have always been insightful, exciting, enriching and rewarding. The students become more innovative with their newfound knowledge transference from the previous year’s theme, and it is fun to see how they incorporate those lessons into the current year’s theme. They also become highly skilled at anticipating our big-picture, “So, what does it all mean?” questions when they compete from the 6th through the 8th grades. Conversely, the first year students never know what to expect, so it is a lot of fun helping them get comfortable with their public speaking and teamwork skills.

Students present their model cities.

Students present their model cities.

Each year, I am eager to learn of the new challenge presented to the students for consideration. I am happy to learn that the 2015 theme will speak to the growing need for localized food growth due to exponential population increases expected by the year 2050.  Assumptions suggest that there will be,
“… less farmable land, more water pollution, growing water scarcity, increased fuel costs (making importing and exporting foods more expensive), pesticide resistance, and the growth of megacities, to name just a few. In order to feed the world in the future, we will have to come up with smart new ways to grow our food much closer to where we live.”

This competition will definitely prove challenging and will compel the students to use all available resources and knowledge gained from classwork and external research alike. Their results and interpretations of the challenge will be undoubtedly captivating.

Kevin judging the Future City models.

Kevin judging the Future City models.

Kevin Middlebrooks shared, “My experience with Future City over the past two years has been very rewarding. By serving as a volunteer presentation and model judge, I get the opportunity to consider solutions from students that are often very creative and extraordinary. The students’ imaginations always impress me and leave me looking at problems a little differently. I look forward to participating in future events.”

Cindy Miller shares the same enthusiasm for the program, “It was so great to see how much the students can learn in such a short time together. Their excitement about planning and imagining for the future was really inspiring!”

These students, with the help of amazing educators, coaches, mentors, parents and supporters, are forcing us all to be pioneering, yet deferential, and proactive in the way we plan, design and implement capital improvements and in how we institute developmental changes across the globe. Each year, I leave Future City more knowledgeable, inspired and convinced that our future will be safe and secure with the continued development of these remarkable young minds. I would highly encourage, and even challenge my colleagues to get involved with this amazing organization and all of its activities.

CH2M HILL Is a proud national sponsor of Future City. To learn more about the Future City design-build competition and how you can get involved as a mentor, judge, or regional competition volunteer please visit and register to volunteer at

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September 2014

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