Sponsored by PPI. An interview with Charles T. Griffith, P.E., a Future City Competition judge, mentor, and past Regional Coordinator. His experience with the Future City Competition spans back fourteen years.
Q. What is the Future City Competition and how did you get involved?
A. Future City is one of the nation’s leading engineering education programs and among the most popular. Future City encourages middle schoolers to develop their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Over 40,000 students from the US and abroad participate annually. I have been involved with the Future City Competition throughout my entire engineering career. I first got involved with Future City Arizona fourteen years ago when I was recruited to help with judging for the Arizona Region. My role then expanded and I eventually became co-coordinator for two years, in 2009-10. Since relocating to the East Coast, I’ve continued to be involved with the Mid-Atlantic Region.
Q. What is the most rewarding part of being a judge for the Future City Competition?
A. I love seeing the impact that Future City has on the kids. You can watch their enthusiasm grow as they begin to understand in a hands-on way how engineering is truly empowering.
Q. What inspired the theme of this year’s competition?
A. As a society, we have an aging population. Learning how to handle this growing demographic issue is one of the biggest challenges we face as a society. This year’s theme has proven to be extremely thought provoking for the kids. Many of them could relate directly to their own family members in ways they couldn’t before they started their Future City project.
Q. What are some of the hopes you have for the future of our cities?
A. Sustainability is top of mind. We are seeing transportation models quickly evolve and change with innovations such as autonomous cars. Good work is being done in infrastructure. I believe we are making steps in dealing with pollution. As we move forward, we need to make sure that both urban centers and rural towns receive equal attention. They are both a part of the puzzle and the needs of both need to be addressed.
Q. What advice would you give to young people pursuing a career in engineering?
A. Don’t be afraid of the math! And, while they need their tech skills, they also have to remember that soft skills are incredibly important. Don’t forget those people skills. A surprising amount of your time in an engineering career will require interpersonal skills.
Q. How can engineers or educators encourage youth to participate in Future City?
A. Many times both the kids and the adults worry about the time commitment. One way around that is for educators to blend Future City into their course work. That way it’s nothing they are not doing already. Engineers are the most important piece of the puzzle because they are hands on with the students. Kids often respond to engineer mentors who are closer to their own age. Engineer mentors should remember that the work they put in now will pay off later – these are the kids you are going to be hiring in ten years! Learn more about Future City.
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