DIG ‘Rookies’ honored at Future City meet

  • The DIG Future City team won Rookie of the Year. From left: DIG President Steven Brown and his son Steven Brown II, team members Payton Miles, Anastasia Smith and Faith Johnson, afterschool teacher’s assistant Emily Willis, afterschool program site coordinator Charlette Epps, and DIG program director Shelby Williams.

A local team of three middle school students was named Rookie of the Year at the Regional Future City competition last weekend in Aiken.

The Dreams, Imagination & Gift (DIG) Development Program in Williston sent a team to the Jan. 20 event at USC Aiken to compete against 44 other teams from across South Carolina and the greater Aiken-Augusta area. The DIG team consisted of Faith Johnson (8th grade), Payton Miles (6th grade), and Anastasia Smith (6th grade).

“This was the first year that the DIG Future City team competed and we are really pleased with the outcome. These girls worked on the Future City project every day after school and over the weekends at times,” said Shelby Williams, DIG’s program director.

This was DIG’s first year sending a team to Future City, which asks middle school students one question: How can we make the world a better place? Students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solution to a citywide sustainability issue. Participants of the Future City competition complete five deliverables: a virtual city design (using SimCity), a 1,500-word essay, a scale model, a project plan, and a presentation to judges.

“Through this program, students learn how today’s engineers and city planners deal with citywide sustainability issues like waste management, pollution and lack of adequate mass transit systems,” said Future City Regional Coordinator and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) employee Kim Mitchell. “They research cutting edge technologies and develop an imaginative and plausible solution that can exist for generations.”

The DIG team spent the last couple of months designing a virtual city with SimCity to manipulate their city, including controlling the budget, zoning, growing the amount of residents in their city, and keeping pollution low in their city. The team researched concepts and ideas of the future in which they wanted to see in the future city they were building. They composed a 1,500-word essay explaining the ideas and concepts they wanted to see in their city. They then used recyclable items, containers, and boxes to build a model to scale of their future city. They prepared for their presentation portion of the competition by answering questions that the judges may ask.

“The Future City competition prepares our students for careers such as city managers, economic developers and engineers,” said Williams.

This year’s “Age-Friendly City” theme was relevant as “long-held assumptions about aging are being radically redefined,” according to a press release from SRNS. The release cited how older adults are living longer, staying in the workforce longer, and living independently for longer than ever. By 2050, older adults will outnumber children under the age of 14.

While the team from Kennedy Middle School in Aiken won first place and is advancing to the Future City National Finals in Washington, D.C., DIG officials are super proud of their team. The Rookie of the Year award is given to a team whose first time participating in the competition was within the past two years and is based on scores and other factors.

“This award was special to our team because it shows that our team can compete with teams that have been competing for years, it increases the excitement and interest for our team to create a city next year, and it shows other teams that we are a team to look for in next year’s competition,” said Williams.

More than 40,000 middle school students from 1,350 schools in 41 U.S. regions around the country participate in Future City.

For more information on Future City competition, visit www.futurecity.org.