The Power of Public Space – Future Engineers Take into Account People…the Single Most Important Ingredient in Any City
On January 16, sixty teams competed once again at South Oldham Middle School in the Kentucky Region Future City Competition for the chance to advance to the national finals held in Washington, DC. This year’s challenge was to create a city that included a network of innovative, multiuse public spaces that served the city’s diverse population. Students learned that people need spaces where they can connect, learn, play, enjoy cultural experiences, create community and grow civic identity. They also learned that city planners and engineers take into account much more than open fields, parks and plazas when developing public spaces. Some areas considered are abandoned buildings, waterways, former industrial areas, streets and sidewalks.
When creating their city, students had to think about how the public spaces not only would help their city to be attractive and livable, but also how they would serve the city in various ways such as introducing new businesses, attracting tourism, reducing crime, reducing traffic congestion, encouraging healthy living, improving the environment and enhancing community engagement. Students were taught that a recent study by UN-Habitat’s Global Urban Observatories Unit found that cities that devoted about 50% of their space to well thought-out public use tended to be more prosperous and have a higher quality of life.
Leonard Engineering had the privilege of sponsoring a Structural Engineering Award. While judging, we saw that the students did an excellent job of meeting their challenge making it hard to choose the winner of our award. Eventually, we chose Solar Ice City from Natcher Elementary School in Bowling Green, KY which was created by a 6th grade team. Solar City was located in Alaska in a very harsh and cold environment. The students considered the safety of the city and the people who would live there by securing the buildings to the ground using “deep concrete pilings” to resist lateral forces, certainly a timely concern given the increased seismic activity recently experienced around the world.
The regional champion winner was Kharite from Graves County Middle School. We want to extend congratulations to all the teams and wish the best of luck to Graves County in the National Championships. It was exciting to see such inspiring future engineers who might one day contribute to making our world a better place!