July 18, 2019 – BOSTON, MA – For the last ten years, Benesch structural engineer Alyson Stuer, PE, has been involved in Future City—a cross-curricular educational program giving 6th to 8th grade students the opportunity to research, design and build cities of the future. On July 16, she was honored with the 2019 Boston Society of Civil Engineers Section (BSCES) Citizen Engineer Award in recognition of her outstanding public involvement with Future City at both the local and regional level.
Alyson started working with Future City in 2009 as a team mentor. That year, the students she worked with made it to the national Future City competition in Washington, D.C., and from there, Alyson continued to increase her involvement. She became a judge for the competition, then a coordinator, and is currently the Regional Co-Coordinator for the New England Region. In this role, Alyson hosts the annual regional competition, organizes the committee directly responsible for supporting teachers and students involved in the program and leads marketing efforts for the competition at various STEM conferences.
A Growing Program
The program’s New England Region saw participation double in the last year, with nearly a dozen new schools (and counting) planning to participate in the 2020 competition. This growth is, in part, due to a new partnership with Alyson’s alma mater, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
“We’ve been really fortunate to grow the competition in ways we haven’t be able to before,” Alyson said. “I am really looking forward to getting more students involved and interested in STEM in ways I never could as a student.”
Each year the Future City program focuses on a different sustainability topic. Past programs have covered stormwater management, urban agriculture, public spaces, green energy and more. Through the program, students identify problems, brainstorm ideas, design solutions, test—and retest—their concepts, and share their results. In short—the program engages students in the engineering design process, showing them how engineers shape the world around us.
The 2019-2020 year’s program theme is Clean Water: Tap into Tomorrow. Students will choose a threat to their city’s water supply and design a resilient system to maintain a reliable supply of clean drinking water. Teams will then create a virtual design as well as a scale model built from recycled materials, in addition to writing a 1,500-word essay and presenting their materials to regional judges in January 2020. Alyson will be at the helm to make sure that the January competition goes off without a hitch.
“The most rewarding aspect of this program,” Alyson notes, “is seeing the students realize that STEM isn’t all math—that engineering is about problem solving in creative ways. It’s wonderful seeing the students interact with each other and really begin to understand what [engineers] do every day in our work.”
The Citizen Engineer Award is Alyson’s second award this year in recognition of her public service and dedication to Future City. In February, Alyson was recognized by the national ASCE organization for her exceptional volunteer efforts as an engineer.