Future City Iowa



Future City Menu

Future City is a project-based learning program where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future.
Starting with the 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.

Students Participating in Future City:

  • Apply math and science concepts to real-world issues
  • Develop writing, public speaking, problem solving, and time management skills
  • Research and propose solutions to engineering challenges
  • Discover different types of engineering and explore careers options
  • Learn how their communities work and become better citizens
  • Develop strong time management and project management skills

National Competition
Virtual, Spring 2021
For Teachers and Coaches
Future City Handbook
Need to Know Information

Future City 2020-2021

Living on the Moon

The 2020–2021 Future City theme is Living on the Moon. Teams will be asked to identify and tackle the many daunting challenges that are unique to living on the Moon.

Building Your Team


  • Three student presenters, however, more can participate
  • A Teacher
  • An Engineer/Mentor
  • Up to 4 teams from each registered school can compete at the Regional Competition in January


  • Teachers/Coaches include certified teachers, parents, community members interested in leading teams


  • Provide technical assistance
  • Devotes 20 to 40 hours of their time over the length of the project

Managing Your Team

Finding Mentors

  • Local Companies related to the theme
  • Technical/Engineering Firms
  • City/County Officials or Engineers
  • PTA
  • Parents
  • Sponsors
  • National Engineering and Professional Organizations
  • If all else fails, contact the Regional Coordinators: k12@newbo.co


  • Only the three presenters are eligible for awards at the Regional and National Competitions
  • Special Awards from sponsors (Special Awards change annually depending on the sponsors each year). Remember to register your team for our regional Special Awards.
  • Regional Top 5 Teams (2nd-5th) – Receive trophies, medals
  • First Place Regional winners – Receive trophy (Regional and National), medals. This team will go on to compete in the National Finals in the spring.

Special Awards 2020-2021

We will present  “Special Awards” at the 2020 Iowa Regional Future City Competition. Teams of judges from local businesses will talk to students about their cities. Prior to the competition, each team will select the Special Awards for which they would like to be considered.

2019-2020 Special Awards

  • Environmental Vision Award – City that demonstrates the best environmental vision for clean air, water, and land.
    • Sponsored by: Terracon Consultants, Inc.
  • Best Use of Recycled Materials – Model with the most creative way that one to a few items from “our world” cleverly became something else within the Future City.
    • Sponsored by: The Curiosity Path
  • Best Land Surveying Practices – The design that employs the best land surveying practices, taking into consideration the high standards used by surveyors to help protect the public’s safety and welfare.
    • Sponsored by: NCEES
  • Most Innovative Stormwater and/or Floodplain Management – Students who show innovation in stormwater and/or floodplain management.
    • Sponsored by: Iowa Floodplain and Stormwater Management Association
  • City App – Design an app for your Future City using Code.org’s app lab. How could an app enhance the lives of citizens in your Future City? Assist with energy or water infrastructure? Help with transportation challenges? Maybe recreation or education services? Once you have a concept for how an app could help your citizens, use your computer coding skills to make a prototype of your city’s new app using Code.org’s App Lab.
    • Sponsored by: NewBoCo K-12 Education
  • Most Innovative Power Distribution/Communication System Model with the most innovative method or technique for generating or transmitting power or providing communications.
    • Sponsored by: IEEE


Team Awards

Along with your team’s choices of Special Awards, all teams are automatically eligible for the following awards as well!

Best City Essay

  • Best City Essay that meets all competition requirements and has the highest score as voted on by judges before Regional Competition.
    • Sponsored by: Future City Iowa

 Best City Model

  • Best City Model that meets all competition requirements and has the highest score as voted on by judges during the Regional Competition.
    • Sponsored by: Future City Iowa

 Best City Model

  • Best City Model that meets all competition requirements and has the highest score as voted on by judges before Regional Competition.
    • Sponsored by: Future City Iowa

Regional Competition

The Iowa Regional Competition will be held on January 23, 2021, virtually. A tentative schedule will be added below.

Want to Volunteer?

We’re always looking for great mentors, teachers, and judges. Sign up today to join us!


Each team should read the Future City Handbook in its entirety to make sure all aspects of the competition are understood. Please also carefully read the Official Competition Rules on page 81 of the Handbook as well. An FAQ section is included below for quick reference and to hopefully help answer any additional questions you may have.


Q: Where is the Iowa Competition held?

A: Our Regional Competition will be held virtually.

Q: Is it necessary to have an engineer mentor work with the students?

A: We highly recommend it. Engineers, architects, and other technical professionals bring practical experience and advice on designing and building the city. We want students to understand how technology impacts our lives.  Because of the nature of the competition, a mentor from the engineering community is preferred, but a mentor can be anyone involved in a technical profession.

Each team is required to have a mentor either way, as the Official Team format includes three student presenters, one educator, and one mentor. Mentors can be engineers, technical professionals, architects, urban planners, city managers, or others who work in the engineering and technical community.

Q: What is the financial cost to participate?

A: The registration fee is waived for Iowa organizations.

For each team, there will be some cost in building the city model, and perhaps a small cost for presentation materials.  There is a $100 limit per team for all model and presentation materials, whether direct or in-kind.  Schools may solicit support from local community organizations.  The model requires students to use recyclable materials, which doesn’t count toward the $100 limit.

It is also permissible for the engineer volunteers to generate or solicit support.

A Competition Expense Form is required from each team  Make sure to bring this completed form and all receipts with you to the Regional Competition.

Q: How much time will a teacher have to devote to the project?

A:  Teachers spend approximately 35-45 hours on the competition.  Of course, all teams and coaches are different, but this is a reasonable range to expect. It is the teacher’s responsibility to schedule time for the students and the engineer-volunteer to work together and to oversee work done on the project.

Q: How much time will students need to spend on the project?

A:  Estimates are:

  • Design City – 18-20 hours
  • Build Model  – 20-30 hours per student team member
  • City Description – 8 hours
  • Presentation – 7 hours

Q: How much time will the engineer-mentor need to spend on the project?

A: Typically, most engineers or mentors devote approximately 12-14 hours.  The engineer mentor should be available to provide advice and technical assistance to the students. It is hoped that he or she will be available whenever the students work on the project.

Q: Must all students on a team be from the same school or organization?

A: Yes

Q: Can more than one team per school or organization compete at the Regional Competition?

A: Yes, the Iowa Region permits up to 4 teams from a single school or organization to attend the Regional Competition.

Q: How many students can be on a team?

A:  Teams come in all sizes—a whole class, a group of 10 students, or 3 students. As you near competition time, you’ll need to identify the three students who will officially present the team’s work at the Regional Competition.

Q: If my team has more than three students, can they all attend the Regional Competition?

A:  Absolutely!  We strongly encourage all students to attend.  However, only the three presenters are eligible for Special Awards and advancing to Nationals if selected.

Q: When is the team registration deadline?

A:  Teams must be registered online by October 31, 2020.

Q: How many SimCity software codes will a school receive?

A: Each registered school will receive up to two codes which will allow them to download the SimCity software online. Additional codes may be requested by emailing info@futurecity.org, but they are not guaranteed.

Q: I am not familiar with SimCity. Will I receive any instructions?

A: Instructions are provided on the Future City National Website, through webinars, and also at Future City resources and the SimCity website.

Q: What grade levels are permitted to participate in Future City Competition?

A:  Sixth through eighth grades can participate.

Q: Who do I contact to find Mentors?

  • Local Companies related to the theme
  • Technical/Engineering Firms
  • City/County  Officials or Engineers
  • PTA
  • Parents
  • Sponsors
  • National Engineering and Professional organizations
  • If all else fails, contact the Regional Coordinator

Q: Can multiple teams from the same organization be included in the top 5 teams at the Regional Competition?

A: According to the National Future City Competition Program Handbook, only the top scoring team from an organization is allowed to advance to the final round of the Regional Competition. We have encountered multiple top-scoring teams coming from the same organization in the past, and this is part of the reason why we have a limit of four (4) teams per organization being allowed to compete at the Regional Competition. We want to ensure organizations across the state have the best opportunity to be represented.

Q:  What is the official name and EIN of Future Cities for donation purposes?

A: Our official name is Future City Iowa. We are a 501(c)3 charitable organization under NewBoCo; all donations are tax deductible. Our IRS determination letter is available upon request. Please consider contributing!


There are 5 competition components worth a total of 208 points. Each form has it’s own point value and deadline. Please refer to the rubrics, guidelines, and competition rules outlined in your 2020-2021 Future City Handbook to ensure you have up-to-date information and the best chance to meet requirements.

SimCity/Virtual City:  0 points

The Virtual City is no longer a judged or
required deliverable. Nationals encourages teams
to use SimCity or similar software as an
educational tool to test their ideas and
practice designing and managing a city. – The SimCity map uploaded to the CMS.

City Essay:  58 points

Due date is January 13, 2021 – Uploaded to the CMS.

Physical Model:  65 points

Due date is January 13, 2021 – Uploaded to the CMS.

City Presentation:  50 points

Due date is January 13, 2021 – Video shared via site such as YouTube or Vimeo

Project Plan: 10 points

Due date is January 13, 2021 – Upload to the CMS.

City Q&A: 25 points

Due date is January  25, 2021 – the day of the competition.

Media Form: 0 points

Due date is January 23, 2021 – Digital waivers due by the day of competition.

Competition Expense Form: 0 points

Due date is January  25, 2021 – the day of the competition.

Scoring Deductions

    • Missing the submission deadline for City Model, City Presentation or City Essay – 5-10 points
    • Exceeding the City Essay word count – 10 points 
    • Exceeding the 25 slide limit – 15 points 
    • Missing, incomplete, or inaccurate
 Competition Expense Form (including receipts)
 – 15 points
    • Exceeding the $100 budget or misrepresenting the values of materials used in the City Model and/or presentation/special awards – 15 points 
    • Missing identification information on first slide – 5 points 
    • Changing text box size or including written
 content outside of approved text boxes – 15 points 
    • Missing Honor Statement – 2 points 
    • Unsportsmanlike conduct (rude behavior or disruption of judging by any team member or guests) – 20 points
    • Plagiarism (if a team’s City Essay is determined to be plagiarized) – 0 points earned for deliverable 
    • Destruction of another team’s model or presentation materials or actions or comments from team members or team supporters that malign, disparage, or harass regional coordinators or volunteers – disqualification 


All Future City Competition Forms are now available as writeable PDFs.

Note: You need Adobe Reader installed on your computer and acting as your default pdf reader. Download the free version at http://get2.adobe.com/reader/otherversions/

Write the City Essay:

City Presentations:

City Q&A:

Call for Judges

Future City starts every year with an important challenge topic—how can we make the world a better place? To answer it, 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students imagine, research, design, and build cities of the future that showcase their solutions that address global sustainability issues. Students from across Iowa have written 1500-word essays, created virtual cities, and designed scaled 3D models of their cities. Now it’s time for them to present their city for a chance to win the Iowa Regional Competition. The winner of the Future City Iowa Regional Competition will represent Iowa in the National Competition.

What YOU do as a Judge

You can volunteer to judge deliverables like the City Essay, City Presentation, and City Model virtually per your availability, or judge the City Q&A sessions live, virtually.Scores from multiple judges will be combined and averaged. Below is a sample schedule for the competition day:

9:00 – 9:45 Review/Orientation
9:15 – 10:00 Special Awards Judging
10:15 – 10:30 Round 1: Model & Presentation
10:35 – 10:50 Round 2: Model & Presentation
10:55 – 11:10 Round 3: Model & Presentation
11:15 – 11:30 Round 4: Model & Presentation
11:35 – 11:50 Round 5: Model & Presentation
12:00 – 12:45 Break for Lunch/Score Tabulations
12:45 – 1:15 Awards Ceremony and Top 5 Announcement
1:45 – 3:00 Top 5 Judging Rounds
3:00 – 3:15 Final Score Tabulations
3:15 – 3:30 Top 5 Announcement and Award Ceremony

When and Where

Early Deliverable Judging:
Saturday, January 16th –Sunday, January 17th, per your availability
Competition day, Live City Q&A Judging:
Saturday, January 23, 2021
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Please contact our Regional Coordinators at k12@newbo.co, if you have any questions.

Our Sponsors

Thank you to our generous Future City 2020-2021 sponsors and supporters!
  • Cargill Incorporated
  • Alliant Energy Foundation
  • Collins Aerospace
  • Workiva
  • Integrated DNA Technologies

Sponsorship Levels

Diamond Level- $2,500 +

  • All Ruby and Topaz Level perks
  • Sponsors listed on a backdrop at Regional Competition event for photos
  • Sponsors advertised on NewBoCo donor wall
  • Sponsor name and logo displayed on social media shout-outs

Ruby Level- $1,000-$2,500

  • All Topaz Level perks
  • Sponsors listed on all printed Future City materials
  • Sponsor banner displayed at Regional Competition event

Topaz Level- $1,000 or less

  • Sponsors listed in event program at Regional Competition
  • Sponsors thanked verbally at the Regional Competition
  • Sponsors listed on the NewBoCo website’s Future City page


We gladly accept in-kind donations!

A check can be made out to NewBoCo (memo: Future City Iowa) and sent to

Kaitlin Byers
c/o Future City Iowa
415 12th Ave SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52401


2020 Results

Special Award Winners:
1. Best City Essay: Sidovia from Harding Middle School
2. Best Virtual City: Potamoi from Harding Middle School
3. Best City Model: Kauai from McKinley Steam Academy
4. Best Land Surveying Practices: Gorod Kholoda from Taft Middle School
5. Most Creative Use of Recycled Materials: Hydrostorm from Waukee Schools
6. Most Diverse Infrastructure: Sidovia from Harding Middle School
7. Best Land Management: Mohabay from Prairie Middle School
8. Most Innovative Stormwater and/or Floodplain Management: Ilma from Prairie Middle School
9. Quality: PDCA: Nirali from NewBoCo
10. Most Robust Solution for Flooding and Related Water Contamination: Mare from Prairie Middle School
11. Most Innovative System Design: Rio Claro from Harding Middle School
12. Best Constructed Model: Potamoi from Harding Middle School
13. Environmental Vision Award: Mas Bueno Cada Dia from Taft Middle School
14. Best City App: Badilisha from Taft Middle School
Top 5 finalists:
1. Potamoi from Harding Middle School
2. Hydropolis from Waukee Schools
3. Jamila from McKinley STEAM Academy
4. Badilisha from Taft Middle School
5. Magnolia from Keota Community Schools
Future City Iowa Regional Winner:
Potamoi from Harding Middle School
They will go on to represent Iowa at Future City Nationals in Washington DC February 14-19, 2020.