(CBS) — Some Chicago, suburban and downstate middle-schoolers are hooked on engineering, with the goal of creating a cleaner, efficient future environment.

WBBM’s Keith Johnson reports they’re competing in the national Future City competition.

Don Wittmer, Chicago regional coordinator, says the contest has several parts, including a comprehensive description on managing solid waste.

“They want to talk about kind of how they can help improve or help incorporate that into their future cities,” Wittmer said. “They create a virtual city using the SimCity software and they actually build a tabletop scale model of their city.

38 regions across the country are competing. Regional winners will head to the nation’s capital to compete for a grand prize, $7,500 and a trip to space camp.

Judgement day for the Chicago region will be on January 9 at UIC.