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Wayne Snyder

By Wayne Snyder,
Director, Technology Development

As our world changes, so too must our thinking about how we plan, design and build resilient cities.

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege to volunteer as an Engineering Society of Detroit (ESD) member to judge at the 2020 ESD Michigan Regional Future City Competition, a DiscoverE national program that brings 6th, 7th and 8th grade students together to imagine, research, design and build cities of the future. The sustainability theme this year was “Clean Water: Tap Into Tomorrow”. Students addressed a threat to the city’s water supply and designed a resilient system to maintain clean drinking water. Teams needed to produce a SimCity software simulation, written essay, physical model, project plan and in-person presentation. Top scoring regional teams will go on to compete at the national finals in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, Feb. 18th; the event will be livestreamed from the Future City website. The first prize team at nationals will ultimately attend Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. This outstanding competition was the culmination of a four-month program and was truly exciting to witness. Thank you to ESD and the membership supporters, sponsors, volunteers and of course the curious-minded student innovation teams.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

– The New Quotable Einstein (2005)

I don’t know about you, but when I was their age I was more concerned about soccer, baseball cards, friends and the latest video games. I wasn’t thinking about climate change and the quality-of-life effects on a growing world population with dense urban cities. World news and knowledge were not conveniently and digitally accessible at my fingertips (the Internet, what’s that?!). Sure, there were earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis and record temperatures, but these seemingly infrequent events were more easily perceived and reported as “it is what it is” occurrences; we didn’t correlate and teach them as human-made disasters.

But times have changed. Climate change is top-of-mind, prominently in the news every day. Sadly, younger generations are reporting an increasing anxiety about climate change and the impact to their future and future generations. Studies like this one also suggest beliefs, attitudes and perceptions about climate change are not afforded enough attention to channel worries into engaging discovery and action.

This is why I see the Future City program and other Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) programs as excellent opportunities to inclusively engage younger students to uncover their hidden talents, build problem solving skills and gain the confidence to tackle their concerns. STEAM programs take theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and apply the engineering design process in a hands-on way to real-life applications that draw inspiration and meaning.

While the benefits to students are clear, there are also several compelling benefits to industry organizations and professionals participating in STEAM programs, including:

  • Improve communication skills
  • Develop leadership attributes
  • Recruit talent
  • Align educational curriculum towards workforce needs
  • Network with other industry professionals
  • Increase visibility of brand and name recognition
  • Improve positioning as a community pillar

What can you do as an industry partner to support STEAM programs?

  • Volunteer your time and expertise
  • Donate equipment, software, materials and supplies
  • Provide discounted prices to educators
  • Design and oversee internship and co-op programs

After this positive experience at Future City, I am going to be more mindful about looking for more and better ways to participate, rather than observe, the innovation our world needs to accelerate smarter, cleaner and more accessible solutions for communities and cities.


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Twitter: @waynedsnyder


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