Free civil engineering game enticing teenagers

Gamification of civil engineering is being trialled as a way of exposing more high school students to the field of civil engineering, potentially leading to new career choices.

Around 200 schools with 500 teenagers are expected to take part in the Institute of Civil Engineer’s CityZen competition in the UK that will see students tackle challenges faced by civil engineers daily, but in a digital environment.

The concept came about when ICE members were collaborating with a high school teacher during the pandemic to provide a virtual alternative to work experience placement for students. The CityZen game challenges the teenagers to consider all aspects of a project, including water quality and management; protected species and environments; sustainability; pollution; and ethics. Participants work in groups to mirror the way professional engineers work together and solve problems.

WSP Principal Engineer, Helen Littler, said she used her hometown of Southampton in south-west England as the base for the game, making provision for pedestrians and cyclists in the mix for students to consider.

“When we came up with the idea of a game revolving around a city, I knew transport would be a vital part – as the life blood of any city,” she explained, adding the game looks a lot like Southampton!

“I drew all the transport bottlenecks we have suffered – and still suffer from – as the UK’s second biggest port. I also incorporated some of the societal and economic challenges this brings to a city.”

Running for a second year, the first CityZen saw a huge jump in students wanting to become civil engineers, according to New Civil Engineer website. Around 33% of the 550 teenagers from 90 schools last year were already interested in a career in civil engineering but, by the competition’s end, the number had grown to almost 80%.

The game is free to play and is designed for 11-year-olds and over.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.