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A DiscoverE Program

Philadelphia Future City Competition Overview

The Philadelphia Regional Future City Competition is a 501.c.3 educational outreach program of DiscoverE. We are one of over 50 regional programs conducted throughout the United States and the world with the goals of introducing middle school students to the engineering profession, introducing them to project management and most importantly, sparking an interest in STEAM activities. The Future City Program continues to be on the National Association of Secondary School Principals' National Advisory List of Student Contests and Activities.

Future City Engages Students in Engineering and So Much More...

The Future City Competition is a project-based learning activity that introduces students to the basics of both project management and the engineering design process. The students identify goals, build a plan, brainstorm ideas and design solutions. The students then enter a build ->evaluate -> build cycle. All this while assessing risk and meeting a schedule. Future City is a fun and engaging way to build students' 21st century skills.


Students in the Greater Philadelphia Area work as a team from September to January with an educator and an engineer mentor to:

Registration begins in March and ends on October 30. The registration fee is $25 per school. The combined value of materials used in the City Model, City Presentation, City Q&A, and special award presentations may not exceed $100. Students must track their expenses using the Competition Expense Form to report them. The program provides the schools with the handbook with Educator's Guide, online orientation, prior competition videos, pictures, numerous handouts, assists in getting mentors for schools and assistance from the Regional School Coordinator (Mary Moyer). The Philadelphia Future City Competition also runs an Engineering Fair in October (more information below). The culmination of the program is an all-day competition in the Philadelphia area in January.

Program Impact

The Philadelphia Program has involved from 30 to 50 schools each year since its beginning in 1995 and has reached over 10,000 students. Many team members who were introduced to engineering for the first time through the Future City Competition have since become engineers. An independent evaluation of the national Future City program in 2015-2016 by the Concord Evaluation Group significant positive outcomes in a number of areas.

Engineering Fair

Since 2018 the Philadelphia Future City Competition has also provided a free Engineering Fair in October. In normal times the Engineering Fair has three parallel tracks that the students can move between:

Due to public health constraints the 2020 and 2021 Engineering Fairs became virtual events consisting of a series of speakers addressing the engineering challenge and project management.

Competition Awards:

The top six teams in the morning preliminary round compete in the afternoon regional finals, with the first place team going to the National Competition in Washington, DC during National Engineers Week in February. The Philadelphia teams have always placed well nationally and in 1999 took first place. The top national team gets a trip to Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. All of the regional finalist teams receive awards

Special Awards

The sponsors of Philadelphia Future City Competition provide "Special Awards" in many areas of engineering and related fields. Most years the competition presents about 50 special awards. Throughout the morning volunteers circulate through the teams, asking them questions about topics related to the award. This is often a good opportunity for team members who are not on the presentation team to interact with working engineers. To get some idea of the variety of awards given, look at the awards presented at past competitions. This part of the competition challenges students to think on their feet, a skill that is rarely emphasized, and apply the knowledge that they have gained about engineering, science and cities to answer questions that they cannot prepare for. There are no rubrics or guidelines for the special awards. Most importantly, the students get to talk to engineers and other technical professionals, show off what they have learned, and be creative. The awards provide them with a feeling of accomplishment even if they were not a finalist in the competition, every team will almost assuredly go home with a special award that have earned with their creativity.

Who makes Future City Philadelphia happen?

A hard-core team of 18 dedicated individuals that make up the Steering Committee, let by Jennifer Wetzel work year around to make sure the students will have a positive experience with Future Cities. On the day of the competition over 100 volunteers show up (even on our virtual competitions) to make it all happen. Then there are the mentors, one for each of the approximately 50 schools that participate. The volunteers come from dozens of different companies, government organizations, professional societies and disciplines. Our volunteers range from corporate executives and high-ranking military officers to college and high school students, with some of everything in between. The one thing they all have in common is a desire to pass on their enthusiasm for STEM to the next generation. Last but not least, are the teachers many of whom donate their own time to support the STEM dreams of their students and others who wrestle with school bureaucracy to have a class or club dedicated to the Future City Competition.

Volunteer or Become a Mentor


The Future City Competition could not exist without the many sponsors that support us. Our sponsors include corporations, professional societies and individuals. As with our volunteers, the one thing they all have in common is a desire to pass on their enthusiasm for STEM to the next generation. In addition to financial support, our sponsors are the main source of our volunteers. In some cases, volunteers have convinced their organizations to become sponsors, in other cases a sponsoring organization encourages its employees or members to become volunteers. Often both of those seem to happen simultaneously. See our sponsorship page for the benefits of becoming a sponsor of the Philadelphia Future City Competition.

Become a Sponsor


Register Your School


Still have Questions? Contact our Regional Coordinator, Jennifer Wetzel: coordinator@futurecityphilly.org , (215) 573-3935

Last Modified 10/10/2021 6:10 PM