Saturday 10th June 2023

Battle of the Boroughs

Empowering Youth for a Sustainable and Inclusive NYC



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After a year hiatus, Battle of the Boroughs returned better than ever!

co-written by Minecraft Education and C40 Cities

This year, students got to battle it out head-to-head aboard the USS Intrepid in front of their educators, friends, and family, to create sustainable solutions for a better New York City (NYC) for everyone.

NYC was selected as one of seven cities to participate in the Schools Reinventing Cities this spring. The Schools Reinventing Cities competition by Minecraft Education and C40 Cities is designed for K-12 students to use their creativity to build a better city for current and future generations. The program builds on the mobilization of youth in cities in response to the climate crisis. Students had the opportunity to explore a Minecraft replica of NYC and reimagine their city for a more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive future.

Running from January to April, the program received an impressive response of over 2,000 students submitting around 400 creative ideas across the five boroughs. From round one, 50 top teams were selected to proceed to borough-specific qualifiers competing to get to the finale. After intense qualifying rounds, 50 students were selected to compete head-to-head in the live esports challenge, Battle of the Boroughs 2023.

Competition Challenges and Themes

Inspired by the PlaNYC:Getting Sustainability Done initiative, the competition aimed to address sustainability and inclusivity challenges in NYC. The competition posed thought-provoking challenges for different grade levels. Students in 3rd-5th grades were tasked with envisioning the next generation of bike lanes and enhancing equitable bike access, while students in 6th-12th grades focused on creating inclusive public spaces that connect New Yorkers from diverse neighborhoods. Throughout the competition, equity, inclusivity, and culture were recurring themes, reflecting the importance of these values in building a sustainable and just city.

The Winners

Among the participants, the all-girl Staten Island team, the "Shining Stars," emerged victorious in the K5 Junior Division. Their project showcased innovative solutions such as solar energy utilization, stormwater drainage with oyster filtration, and features ensuring inclusivity and accessibility. Another notable achievement came from the winning team in the 6th to 12th grade category, Brooklyn's BLOCKHAMPTON. Their creative and innovative design aligned closely with NYC's cultural diversity and focused on creating safe spaces for the community.

The builds focused on sustainability elements such as creating accessible, inclusive public spacesthat incorporated greenery, clean mobility through e-bikes and EV charging stations, compost-fueled food gardens, and free clean drinking water. The builds were made resilient through elements includingefficient storm drainageunder subway tracks and permeable pavementin parks to safeguard against climate impacts such as storms. 

“Gaming is going to be the future way of how we learn things in a very real way.” - NYC Mayor Eric Adams

Youth Engagement and the Transformative Power of Gaming

Randy Asher, the Deputy Chief Information Officer at the NYC Department of Education, emphasized the significance of gaming for youth development. Participating in gaming competitions like Battle of the Boroughs allows students to cultivate valuable skills beyond technical proficiency. Collaboration, effective communication, teamwork, leadership, design thinking, problem-solving, and presentation abilities are just a few examples of the skills acquired through gaming. These skills have a lasting impact, providing lifelong benefits for students as they tackle community issues and contribute to a sustainable future. 

Victoria Cerullo, MOCEJ Director of Strategic Partnership, highlighted the potential of all career paths to contribute to the city's sustainability and justice. Whether gamers, lawyers, architects, or policymakers, everyone has the opportunity to engage in climate-conscious work and make New York City a better place.

Amanda Ikert, Head of Adaptation Implementation and Water at C40 Cities, praised the teams for their innovative designs: “The ideas generated here today by these teams are exactly what we need as we adapt to the shocks and stressors of climate change. We can't be resilient without fresh thinking. These are the people who are going to be living in our cities and we’re eager to show these designs to policymakers because there’s a lot here to take inspiration from.”

The Battle of the Boroughs esports competition not only celebrated the gaming abilities of students but also emphasized the importance of their engagement in shaping a sustainable and inclusive future for NYC. Students present their final builds to city leaders, striving for the implementation of winning ideas through policy change or physical builds, a central component to the Schools Reinventing Cities program model. Recognizing the immense importance of youth in shaping the future of the city, Manhattan Borough president Mark Levine pledged to review each final build and seriously consider their ideas alongside policy makers. By encouraging their involvement and valuing their ideas, the competition empowered the younger generation. 

The event showcased their creativity, problem-solving skills, and dedication to building a vibrant and equitable city. With sustainability, inclusivity, and cultural preservation at the forefront, the competition highlighted the transformative role that youth can play in shaping the city's future. To learn more, watch the recorded livestream of the event.