Imagining (and Building!) the Future of Atlanta with Minecraft

06 May 2024 Atlanta city street in Mincraft

Guest blog by Dr. William Wright, Kennesaw State University iTeach


In September 2023 Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced the Level Up Atlanta: Minecraft Student Build Challenge, inviting students from across Fulton County, Georgia to design and build solutions to help reimage, reconfigure, and revitalize notable areas in and around the city.

In this challenge, students reimagined their city in Minecraft Education, a virtually limitless, sandbox-style game where players can build anything really: structures, cities, even fantasy worlds—using “blocks” of various elements (wood, glass, metal, etc.). Students also learn the basics of coding to speed up the process and unleash their creative potential. The result: a fully customizable virtual world that is a canvas for the imagination!

At the beginning of the challenge, students first explored virtual re-creations of downtown Centennial Park, the Stitch, the Beltline, Five Points, the Battery in Cobb County, and the Buford Dam in Gwinnett County. Here they interacted with “avatars” who spoke with them about various issues the areas faced: mobile transportation, affordable housing, food insecurity, environmental sustainability, and so forth. After learning about some of the needs in these communities, students tackled the following question:

How can we envision a connected, equitable, & sustainable future that moves Atlanta forward without leaving anyone behind?

To rise to the challenge, students had three months to research and imagine and craft potential solutions within the virtual re-creations of these areas. The results were nothing short of extraordinary!


A panel of judges convened in December to select winning elementary, middle, and high school entries.

The elementary winners, students Zion P., Mariam N., Jared B., and Sophia G. of Barnwell Elementary School, reimagined a section of the Beltline to address food insecurity and their desire for more fun, outdoor spaces for kids to spend time with their families. Their build included a state-of-the-art parking deck that automatically parks visitors’ cars along a series of tracks and a playground with a slide, sandbox, swings, and a boat ride for kids and their parents. The area also featured a solar-powered shopping area with “shopping pots” instead of grocery bags and a variety of affordable, locally sourced foods from the nearby “Cherry Gardens”—another section of the build where fruits and vegetables like watermelons and pumpkins are grown to sell in nearby store.

Picture of the winning elementary student build in the Level Up Atlanta build challenge

The middle school winner—student Rachel L. of Webb Bridge Middle School—also reimagined a section of the Beltline, in this case to address the need for sustainable agriculture. In her build, Rachel included pumpkin patches, a bee farm, a chicken coop, a green house, and garden beds with fruits and vegetables from around the world, all elevated for those with accessibility needs. Her wholistic re-imagining of the beltline also featured a farmer’s market, a restaurant, an education area, a dog park, a bike trail, a playground, and a souvenir shop. 

Picture of the winning middle school build from the Level Up Atlanta Build Challenge

The high school winner—student Annalisa F. of FCS Innovation Academy—reimagined a section of the Beltline to honor the past, present, and future of Atlanta. To honor the history of Atlanta, she built a series of stone plaques along the Beltline path that detailed key events in the city’s history. To honor the present, she included a ring of permanent market stalls where local artists and small business owners could share their goods with the community. And finally, to invoke a sustainable future, she constructed a giant ‘Super Tree’ grove (inspired by a similar project in Singapore) that would light up at night and host a variety of local plants and wildlife, symbolizing Atlanta's commitment to a green future.

Picture of the winning high school build from the Level Up Atlanta Build Challenge

Together, these exceptional student visions showcased not only the power of Minecraft as a tool for urban planning but also the creativity and innovation young minds can bring to envisioning a brighter future for their city!