It’s good to be young and starting a family in Murphy. In fact, you can say that about several cities in Collin County and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area, according to NerdWallet.
The financial management website looked at 239 population centers in Texas with a minimum population of 10,000 and took a magnifying glass to several quality-of-life rankings, including schools, median home values and income growth.
When they took a blender to all of those factors and mixed them up, Murphy came out on top —followed closely by Flower Mound and Frisco, another Collin County town.
"I’ve been here about a year now, and it really goes toward the commitment on the part of our city’s leadership to really focus on quality-of-life issues in our community," Murphy City Manager Mike Castro said.
A small business is going up along FM 544 in Murphy.
Castro came to Murphy from Jersey Village, a suburb on the northwest side of Houston (which had a population too small to be included on the list).
"We’re a fast-growing city, a city with a lot going for it," Castro said. "A lot of the things that make this city attractive for families I have to believe also make it attractive for businesses and other groups that make the city a positive place to be."
In all, eight of the top 10 places to feel young and alive in Texas are in what NerdWallet calls the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro area.
"If the region was a state, it would have the ninth largest gross domestic product in the country, in large part due to corporate residents such as Exxon Mobil Corp. (Irving), AT&T Inc. (Dallas) and American Airlines (Fort Worth). This year, Toyota’s North American headquarters opened its doors in Plano, too," the website said in touting the D-FW region.
Murphy finished with a total score of 72.82, followed by Flower Mound at 72.18 and Frisco at 72.08.
Rounding out the top 10 Texas cities in NerdWallet’s analysis are New Territory, a 3,200-acre planned community about 30 miles from Houston; Wylie; Allen; Forney; Prosper, Cibolo — the only San Antonio-area city in the top 10 — and Royse City.
To find out where your city or population area ranked on the list, click here.
Warning: Although the top 10 is filled with D-FW locations, the bottom 10 is, too, including the 239th — the last place — finisher.
Walking and reading
Prosper finished eighth out of 239 spots on the NerdWallet list, but it also recently won acclaim for an effort to encourage children to read — while also getting a little exercise.
The Prosper Book Trail earned an award of excellence from the Texas Municipal League at its annual conference in Houston in early October.
The trail, near Rucker Elementary school, includes 23 stopping points with slanted platforms at the typical child’s eye level. Each platform includes parts of one book. The first pages are at the trail head, and additional pages are displayed as the trail continues, allowing readers to finish the book when the trail ends.
Books are changed out every few weeks.
"The trail is virtually always busy, and we are thrilled to see so many people embrace it," Prosper Library director Leslie Scott said. "As we move forward, we may entertain the possibility of other book trails in other parks and open spaces."
A high-tech playground
Speaking of being young in Collin County, some students are getting to play in a sandbox as they learn a little bit about geology.
Students at the Spring Creek Campus of Collin College will study topographical formations via an Augmented Reality Sandbox. The technology, which is often used in gaming, "takes a camera’s image of the world and overlays imagery — often interactive imagery — onto the real-world environment," according to the Collin College website.
Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that augmented images add to what the viewer is already seeing, instead of replacing it. So it’s a modified world, rather than an imagined one.
In use at the college, a depth-sensing camera determines the elevation of the peaks and valleys in a sand dune. Camera data is delivered to a projector mounted above the sand, which projects lines of elevation and color banding onto the sand surface, showing higher elevations in a different color from lower ones — almost like how temperature changes are often illustrated with colors.
The augmented maps can be changed just by dragging a finger — and it looks pretty cool when you see someone doing it.
The sandbox was put together by geology lab instructor Stacey Bilich and professor Neal Alexandrowicz with software from the University of California-Davis.
"An Augmented Reality Sandbox provides a different representation of topography, beyond giving people a flat piece of paper and asking them to visualize in their head what all of those lines represent," Bilich said.