photo of Kader kids
Siblings Koen and Kamryn Kader are featured in the new Cities of the Future film, tracking their Future City journey.

The DiscoverE Future City competition finals always brings hundreds of talented middle school future engineers together to Washington, D.C., as Engineers Week kicks off.

This year’s event, though, added a couple of movie stars to the mix, for good measure.

Siblings Koen and Kamryn Kader were back in D.C. this week at the Future City finals a year after their Future City journey was captured in the new ASCE giant-screen film Cities of the Future. With the film opening last weekend in select museums and IMAX theaters around the world, the Kaders are about to be civil-engineering famous.

“I never envisioned myself being on a giant screen like that,” said Kamryn, an eighth-grader student in the Sharing Adventures in Learning program in Allen, Texas, just outside Dallas.

“It’s crazy to think about it, but it’s going to be really cool.”

Kamryn was there this week cheering on her older brothers, Alex and Koen, who participated in the Future City high school pilot program. 

The storyline in Cities of the Future, produced by ASCE and MacGillivray Freeman Films, is built around the Kader kids and their Future City team, as they work with ASCE members Paul Lee and Monica Morales to learn more about different infrastructure innovations that they might add to their future city.

“This is my fourth year participating in Future City,” ninth-grader Koen said. “I was always interested in engineering, but learning about STEM in Future City has just made my passion for engineering that much more.”

This year’s Future City finals event, as usual, was full of energy and excitement with 42 middle school teams (and four high school programs) competing and cheering and generally just having a giant STEM party. This year’s finals atmosphere was even more (literally) electric than usual, given the competition’s theme of “Electrify Your Future.”

“This year teams were challenged to build a city 100 years into the future that is 100% electrically powered,” said Susan Hoopes, DiscoverE director of programming. 

“Then they have to think about the benefits and drawbacks of doing that. Where are those energy sources coming from? How are they affecting the community? How are affecting the city’s food sources coming? Where do the citizens live? How do they get around?

“So the students really have to think about this from a much larger perspective.”

Each team begins their work at the start of the school year, competing in regional competitions during the winter. Many ASCE members serve as team mentors and regional judges. 

The regional champions advance to the finals in D.C. where they’re judged on three deliverables: an essay about their future city, a presentation about their city, and of course the physical model of their city.

“What makes Future City so amazing is it’s such a robust program,” Hoopes said. “It’s not something you can do in a week or in a month. It takes a long time for these kids to go through this project. So it allows them to learn the entire engineering design process.”

The team from Farnsworth Middle School (in the Albany, New York, region) won first place in this year’s competition for their city, Dutchman Ducks/He Hika. Second place went to Lionville Middle School (Philadelphia region), followed by third-place Warwick Middle School (Central Pennsylvania region).

ASCE presented an award for best visualization of a smart, sustainable city to students from the Tsinglan School (China Guangdong North region) and their Electree City design.

The Kaders, meanwhile, will return home to Texas this week for a special screening of Cities of the Future with friends, family, and Morales, their ASCE mentor/fellow movie star Monica Morales.

“To be honest, I think it’ll be really cool,” said Koen. “It will probably be a little bit funny to see myself on such a giant screen. But I’m really excited to see it.”

Koen said he is excited to pursue mechatronics engineering as he gets older; Kamryn is interested in a career in biomedical engineering. Their passion for engineering will be plain to see for everyone who sees Cities of the Future this year in theaters.

And it all started at the Future City competition.

“Future City really helped show me that I love engineering,” Kamryn said. “It helps you find your passion and lets you see what kinds of things you might be doing in engineering.

“I just think it’s really cool. Great learning experience.”

Learn more about Cities of the Future.

How can you unlock the potential of the next generation? Send a kid to the future by donating to the ASCE Foundation. Your gift will help to grant free screenings of Cities of the Future to students from underserved communities.