This fall more than 500 teenagers will play civil engineering computer Game which aims to open their eyes to careers in the industry.
gAmification of civil engineering could be the key to increasing the number of young people studying the subject at undergraduate and apprenticeship levels – and it is already happening. ICE’s CityZen initiative enables school children to tackle the challenges that civil engineers face on a daily basis, in a digital environment.
At least 200 schools are expected to take part in the second year of the CityZen competition which will culminate in a final next spring. It is hoped that the game’s return will more than emulate the success of the inaugural year when there was a huge surge of students wanting to become civil engineers.
When CityZen started last year, a third of the 550 participants aged 16 to 18 from 90 schools were interested in a career in civil engineering. By the end of the competition, that figure had risen to 79%.
The CityZen concept is the work of ICE members and a high school teacher, but the award – officially known as the ICE David Butler Award – was made possible by money Butler bequeathed to support ICE educational programs.
Butler had a particular interest in supporting opportunities for young engineers and it is clear that the price and CityZen do just that.
The pandemic helped shape the idea. The game was created to provide a virtual alternative to a work experience placement, where players work together in teams to mirror the way professional civil engineers collaborate and solve problems.
Speaking about the creation of the game, Helen Littler, Principal Engineer at WSP, says: “When we came up with the idea of a game revolving around a city, I knew that transportation would be a lifeblood – like the blood of any city. I started out sketching ideas and used my home town of Southampton as a base and so the game is very much like that.
ICE David Butler Award Winners
The winners of the 2021 event were announced in February this year.
St John’s Marlborough School, Marlborough
Planning green and affordable housing for first-time buyers
Queen Ethelburga’s College, York
Activity center to support a hospice in York
Lagan College, Belfast
Fixing traffic problems in Belfast
“I drew all the transport bottlenecks that we have suffered and still suffer from as the second largest port in the UK.
“I’ve also incorporated some of the societal and economic challenges that this poses to a city.”
The game also introduces students to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“It was important to highlight the impact of each in-game choice on carbon footprint and sustainability, which adds an interesting challenge on top of meeting citizen needs and staying on budget,” says Carlos Rojao , engineer of the Design ID Consulting project, who worked on the development of the game.
The concept of value has also been incorporated into CityZen, according to Angus MacGregor, Business Development Manager at Bam Nuttall. “In civil engineering, when considering value for money, you should never focus solely on the minimum purchase price. We should consider the maximum efficiency and effectiveness of the purchase in all aspects of the project,” he adds.
“CityZen incorporates finite budgets and decisions that increase amenity or generate harm – real-world considerations that play out in the game.”
IIt was important to highlight the impact of each in-game choice on carbon footprint and sustainability
Teams must extract a wealth of engineering research and design information to complete CityZen’s tasks. An important aspect of real-life gaming is challenging teams to balance the needs and wants of a wide variety of people and organizations.
Each team was supported by an ICE Science, Engineering Technology and Mathematics (Stem) Ambassador to provide a link to industry to mentor students through the assignments and to help them better understand the sector.
Last year’s entrants considered a wide variety of issues facing their local communities to work their way through the challenge and created videos of their work for the judges to evaluate.
The focus was on developing a green and affordable housing plan which won four students from St John’s Marlborough School the top prize. One of the school’s students, Oliver Markham, says: “During CityZen, we realized that civil engineering is not just about building infrastructure. It’s about people and area improvements to increase living standards, protect the environment and history, and be prepared for any eventuality.
VSityZen incorporates finite budgets and decisions that increase amenity or generate detriment – real-world considerations
St John’s Marlborough students said playing the game helped them understand the need to listen to stakeholders and be aware of the challenge of balancing everyone’s needs in decision-making.
Their first task was to build a bridge, and the school’s ICE Stem Ambassador walked them through all aspects of the decision-making processes and got them thinking about the outcome of the work.
In the weeks that followed, the team spoke with local actors to understand the challenges facing their local community. This helped them identify the need for more affordable housing. The solution they presented was based on converting shipping containers into housing.
While not everyone can be a winner, student feedback was clear: they liked the game concept of CityZen, but also enjoyed applying the skills they learned to problem solving in their area. . For many, developing viable solutions was not as simple as it first seemed. But the comments suggest that they successfully rose to the challenge. The hope for this year is that CityZen can reach a wider audience.
Although over 200 schools have already registered to take part in this year’s competition, there is still time for more to get involved. Interested schools must register by the end of September and have until December 15 to play the game and create their video. The winners will be announced at a special event on March 10 next year.
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