Inside the NEST hexagon, an unexpected experiment was under way: While the delegates interacted, two young teenagers were hard at work managing a burgeoning virtual city. Acting as mayors in SimCity, they handled the complex tasks of balancing revenues, citizen satisfaction, transport, sewage, water and other factors to transform a dirty industrial city into one powered by education and clean-tech.

The exercise was a collaboration between Ericsson, Miami-Dade County and Future City to consider the implications of a city with ubiquitous connectivity. Taking part in this virtual urban development were Mark Woerner, Assistant Director for Planning for Miami-Dade County, 14-year-old Padraic Burns and 17-year-old Dominic Yurk. Burns and Yurk are both alumni of Future City, a national non-profit educational organization that teaches youth about urbanization issues using models and SimCity.

Throughout the game, the students experienced some of the real issues facing urban areas like Miami-Dade County on a daily basis. By building parks and green spaces, for instance, property values and local attractiveness rose. In other cases, the biggest real-life difference was politics, which Woerner explained would make seemingly simple issues like razing a park for a new shop a far more lengthy and bureaucratic process. For Woerner, one of the biggest outtakes was that the even the youngest generation of urban planners already has a remarkably deep understanding of the urban challenges that lie ahead.